Double Punishment: After Prison, Moms Face Legal Battles to Reunite With Kids
Date:  02-27-2017

Termination of parental rights is a very real threat that mostly affects mothers in prison
From Truthout:

This story is the first in a new Truthout series, Severed Ties: The Human Toll of Prisons. This series will dive deeply into the impact of incarceration on families, loved ones and communities, demonstrating how the United States' incarceration of more than 2 million people also harms many millions more -- including 2.7 million children. Since becoming a mother, Vanetta Richardson had never spent a day apart from any of her six children. But, on December 1, 2013, the 34-year-old was arrested at her home in Renton, just outside Seattle, and spent the first night away from her children, who ranged in age from six to 16. A friend took her children in that night, but shortly after, her mother-in-law went to family court and became the children's caregiver, bringing the state's child welfare system into the picture.

Richardson spent over two years battling second-degree murder charges in the death of her abusive husband. Ultimately, she pled guilty to first-degree manslaughter. She and her attorney argued for a shorter sentence, noting both the history of domestic violence at the hands of her husband and the fact that, the longer she spent in prison, the more her relationship with her children was in jeopardy. The judge ultimately sentenced her to 60 months in prison and credited her 888 days (nearly 30 months) in jail as time served. The judge also imposed a no-contact order between Richardson and any member of her husband's family.

But Richardson's legal troubles weren't over yet. She still had to contend with family court, a mother-in-law who was understandably upset about the death of her son and hostile to Richardson, and a court-appointed special advocate (or guardian ad litem) who believed that the children would be better off without their incarcerated mother.

Richardson's experience is one shared by many incarcerated parents. Approximately 2.7 million children under the age of 18, or more than 3.6 percent of children in the United States, currently have a parent behind bars. More than 5 million have had a parent incarcerated at some point in their lives. In Washington alone, 109,000 children (or 7 percent of the state's children) had experienced parental incarceration between 2011 and 2012. Continue reading >>>