Throwaway moms: Maternal incarceration and the criminalization of female poverty

Suzanne Allen, Chris Flaherty, Gretchen Ely

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Using a feminist standpoint epistemological framework, this article reports the findings from 26 interviews with drug-offending incarcerated mothers in Kentucky regarding the effects of incarceration on their relationships with their children. The participants related personal histories characterized by poverty, victimization, chronic substance addiction, and repeated failed attempts at sobriety. Many felt betrayed by the courts and child protective services, and those who had lost custody of their children felt they had no remaining reason to rehabilitate themselves. The mothers expressed profound feelings of guilt and remorse for the impact that their behaviors had on their children and expressed hope that their children would experience better lives than they have.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)160-172
Number of pages13
JournalAffilia - Journal of Women and Social Work
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2010


  • Child welfare
  • Feminist standpoint epistemology
  • Incarceration
  • Mothers
  • Substance abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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