An international human rights perspective on maternal criminal justice involvement in the United States

Lorie S. Goshin, Joyce A. Arditti, Danielle H. Dallaire, Rebecca J. Shlafer, Allison Hollihan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Internationally and historically unprecedented numbers of women in the United States are under criminal justice supervision in jails, prisons, and the community. Pregnant women and mothers with minor children comprise a large proportion of this population. The rise in criminal justice oversight and incarceration rates has differentially impacted a highly vulnerable population of women and children. This article outlines an international human rights perspective on the criminal justice involvement of pregnant women and mothers with minor children, and describes common and broadly accepted U.S. criminal justice practices in the areas of pregnancy, birth, and contact with children that differ from a rights-based approach. Using the United Nations-developed Bangkok Rules and existing research as a foundation, the authors conclude by advancing recommendations for more humane approaches to pregnant and parenting women and their children that would bring the United States more closely in line with international standards. This article capitalizes on the increased attention currently being placed on the U.S. criminal justice system to highlight continued problems and provide humane solutions that draw on international approaches while also fitting a U.S. context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-67
Number of pages15
JournalPsychology, Public Policy, and Law
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 American Psychological Association.


  • Children
  • Human rights
  • Mothers
  • Prison
  • Women's health


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