A Great Lakes Colleges Association initiative supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Incarcerated Motherhood: Experiences of Women in a 21st Century Ohio Prison

About the Project

Approximately 219,000 women are incarcerated in the United States. Eighty percent of those women are mothers, and many of them primary the caretakers of their children upon their incarceration. These numbers do not include women on probation or parole (Kajstura, 2017). According to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, the Dayton Correctional Facility has a population of 848 incarcerated women.


The intention of the Incarcerated Motherhood: Perspectives from Women in a 21st Century Ohio Prison Oral History project is to shed light on the lived realities inside Dayton Correctional Institute, one of Ohio’s two correctional facilities that houses women. By offering a voice to a variety of incarcerated mothers we can vividly imagine what it’s like to navigate their crucial mother-child relationships and overcome the physical separation. The criteria for this project resulted in self-selected participants who did not have charges related to their children, which likely left out some important perspectives.


There has been plenty of scholarship exploring the impact incarceration has on children and families, but a crucial lack of voice given to mothers themselves.  With roots in Anthropology, this particular Oral History will pull qualitative data from this collection of interviews and result in a thesis based paper. In addition to the Senior Thesis Project, a written recommendation will be made to the Ohio Department Rehabilitation and Corrections on steps they might consider taking to better facilitate parenting relationships inside state run facilities.


A diverse population of mothers ranging in demographics, time served/time sentenced, access to contact with their children and viewpoints on the prison itself are represented in these Oral Histories. To maintain the ethical protection of interviewees in their vulnerable positions we have adopted the practice of psuedonyms. This namelessness is not intended to curtail the impact or significance of their stories. These women talk about a variety of obstacles they face inside the prison, and offer immense insight on things that work for them, and things they wish they could change.

Some of these interviews have less than perfect sound quality. There are background noises that may be distracting or frustrating to some listeners. The commotion in the background can be helpful at showing the near impossibility of securing privacy inside of prison walls. I hope that listeners understand the shortcomings of the audio recordings and move forward through their listening experience.




Kajstura, Aleks. “Women’s Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2017.” Women’s Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie

2017 | Prison Policy Initiative, 19 Oct. 2017,

Interview Index

Interview One (hyperlinks need changed)

Interview Two

Written by

Amelia is part of the class of 2018 at Antioch College. Her studies at the college combine anthropology and environmental sciences into her self-designed BA. Amelia has been working with women at Dayton Correctional Institute (DCI), in Dayton, Ohio since summer of 2017. She has conducted oral history interviews with incarcerated women on the topic of motherhood.

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