Babies in Prison! Worst Family Law Legislation: Countdown to 2008

As we continue our nationwide contest for “most ridiculous family law bill in the country,’ I am pleased to present the worst entry from Massachusetts. The second, third and fourth-worst entries were presented over the previous week. So far, I have few entries from other states. Just as with the Red Sox, Patriots and Celtics, New England may be running away with the competition. I invite your nominations from all states for winner of this contest. The winner will be chosen according to secret criteria that are 100 percent subjective. (To enter the contest, your email must include the text of the bill, or a link to the text. The bill must be current. Please indicate whether I can use your name as the submitter.) I now offer the winner and champion in Massachusetts:


Massachusetts Doozy Number One: “Babies in Prison’   Massachusetts HB 104 When an incarcerated woman delivers a baby, HB 104 provides that “…every effort shall be made to keep infants of twelve months or less born to incarcerated mothers with their mothers.’  (emphasis added) (The word “shall’ is important because in law, it means that the thing must be done, without room for discretion.) But suppose there is a perfectly good Dad?  This bill would have the baby stay with Mom in prison even if there is a perfectly good Dad on the outside ! Or suppose Mom is in prison for domestic violence or other violent acts, or child abuse, or is psychologically unbalanced, or is on drugs? And what happens after twelve months? Is baby suddenly expelled from prison into the care of someone he/she has hardly ever seen before? The hazards of prison are very real. Violence. Drug use. Infectious diseases. Sensory deprivation. Lack of pediatric medical care. There are strong medical benefits to nursing, but these benefits max out after a month or so. At that point, even with a great mother, baby needs to get out of the big house if there is a competent caretaker outside, such as Dad. Maybe even before. In summary, this bill is dreadful for babies. And it demonstrates how ready our society is to simply throw away what Dads have to offer children.

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