Sixty-eight percent of incarcerated women are mothers. And when they are sent to prison their absence has a profound effect on their children who are often the forgotten victims of the system. My career has taken me on a totally unforeseen journey from the labor and delivery suite as a nurse, to the courtroom as lawyer, to the women’s prison as a lawyer and activist. And boy have I learned a lot about how screwed up our criminal legal system is. Turns out the incarceration rate of women has increased 700% in the last 15 years. And who suffers the most? Their kids. And our communities, because the impact of parental incarceration on our kids can’t be overstated. In fact, I’ve learned that researchers tell us that this is now an epidemic in our society. 

In Unshackled, Camille takes on the case of a baby who was kidnaped from the labor and delivery suite while her mother, a prisoner, was shackled to her bed. Camille’s investigation takes her into the criminal system where she learns about the impact on kids of incarcerated moms. Inside the prison, Camille discovers that most of the women have been victims themselves and they often turned to street drugs to treat their psychological pain. Once she begins to put these pieces together, Camille uses evidence and research to convince a judge that these kids need to be reunited with their moms, and that to do so would benefit all of society since reuniting moms with their children decreases their chances of relapsing and being re-incarcerated.  

Once again, this Camille Delaney story is a twisting and turning mystery story with a message. At the end of the story, I hope you feel like I do- that we can all do something to help these kids. Our communities will be safer and stronger if we find a better way to deal with the growing substance abuse problem in our society- especially if we put our children first and find a way to keep them with their mothers.

Books by Amanda DuBois