A Sentence for Two
By Randi Jacobs
Pregnancy inside this Oregon prison for women is anything but a joyous celebration of new life. Women who deliver their babies in prison have few options; if they canít find a family member to care for the infant, they will need to place it in foster care, or choose adoption. In any case, the newborn will be separated from its mother at birth, with a very real possibility that the two will never be reunited.
Christina, Trisha and Kristin are pregnant, and are facing years behind bars. Their newborns will face an uncertain future. The three women share the personal details of their pregnancies, incarceration and deliveries as they struggle with the agonizing search for safe and healthy homes for their babies — and as one plan after another falls apart. A fourth inmate, Tangerine, adds the perspective of someone who has already been through it.
By contrast, a few states have prison nurseries where inmates can keep their newborns with them. The documentary visits Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in New York, where Dr. Mary Byrne of Columbia University has been studying the development of babies during their first year of life inside a prison environment. As the number of women in prison continues its dramatic rise, her findings may have a major impact on planning to better meet the needs of incarcerated women and their babies.
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"Filmmaker Jacobs focuses on four women who share their stories, including how they came to be in prison, how they cope with the experience of giving birth there, and the difficulties in making care arrangements and handing their babies over to others soon after birth. In addition to their gripping testimony, there are interviews with prison officials, a judge, and mental health professionals. Jacobs's technique of going to close-up and black-and-white when the women describe their plight is sensitive and compelling. Recommended for women's studies, criminal justice, and social services collections; also prison libraries serving female inmates." Library Journal
"3 Ĺ Stars. Three pregnant inmates and one former prisoner who had a child while incarcerated are the focus of this moving and revealing documentary. Although filmed primarily in Oregon and using comments and statistics from state officials, the featured cases are likely representative of correction institutions throughout the United States. Highly recommended." Video Librarian
"A Sentence for Two illustrates how heart wrenching it is for a mother to be in jail, separated from her children. The stories are told by the women themselves, so they are believable and sincere. The film fills a gap in research about pregnant female prisoners and would be an appropriate selection for any collection that serves social workers, criminal justice workers, criminal justice students, and even high school students taking a sexual education class." Amanda Drost, Counterpoise
Awards & Conference Screenings
Northwest Film & Video Festival
Eugene International Film Festival
Portland Womenís Film Festival
Emory University Workshop on Women,
Incarceration and Human Rights
Portia Project Symposium,
Families in the Criminal Justice System
University of Oregon Law School,
Seminar on Women in Prison
The Secret Life of Babies: A two-part examination of the psychological development of babies, from intrauterine life to the first months after birth. How do fetuses and babies perceive their worlds, and ours?
Gray Days: The U.S. has experienced a dramatic increase in the number of elderly men and women in state and federal prisons. This troubling documentary introduces us to two elderly prison inmates, inviting discussion of the universal issues raised by this situation.
The Mothers' Triangle: Mary was 16 when Christina was born; now, at 18, Christina is a mother too. Best friends, mother and daughter, jealous rivals will their intense but fragile relationship survive the escalating conflicts triggered by Cristian's arrival?
Are the Kids Alright?: Filmed in courtrooms, correctional institutions, treatment centers, and family homes, this searing documentary examines the results of the tragic decline in mental health services for children and adolescents at risk.
Givin' It Up: This disturbing documentary explores the lives of three convicted sex offenders between the ages of 15 and 17 (two male, one female), all of whom were themselves sexually abused when they were younger. Their victims were children as young as four. It examines approaches to the treatment of sexual offenders while acknowledging the challenge of balancing rehabilitation with community safety.