The New Jim and Jane Crow Intersect: Challenges to Defending the Parental Rights of Mothers During Incarceration


Carla Laroche

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Columbia Journal of Race and Law

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Family law scholars and advocates have expressed the importance of providing counsel to parents in the family regulation system, especially parents who are incarcerated, because of the system’s complexities. This article establishes, however, that when mothers must navigate both the family regulation and criminal legal systems, the protections appointed parents’ counsel are supposed to provide are weakened. These harms are heightened especially for Black mothers within the carceral state. As this article shows, appointed lawyers in family regulation cases cannot properly protect the due process rights of mothers who are incarcerated because of the added challenges both mothers and their lawyers face. As a result, families are destined to experience trauma, and are likely to end with the termination of parental rights. This article offers concrete recommendations to address these critical issues and demands a reduction in the number of mothers who are incarcerated and in the family regulation system.