Dr. Mary Byrne's Prison Nursery Research Program was initially funded in part by the New York State Department of Health Commissioner's Priority Award and the Columbia University Institute for Family and Child Policy and is currently funded by "Maternal and Child Outcomes of a Prison Nursery Program," a grant awarded by the National Institute of Nursing Research of the National Institutes of Health in 2003 and renewed through 2012.

The broad objectives of this project are to identify and explore the changes in maternal-infant attachment and infant/toddler development as they occur during incarceration on a prison nursery and during the years following reentry of the infant with and without the mother. The overall goal is to enrich the knowledge base from which prison and community based parenting programs can be developed and tested and to improve the lives of incarcerated women and their children during co-detention and following release. The specific aims are: (1) to compare the impact of an intervention designed to enhance mother-infant synchrony versus a basic child care intervention on: parent-child interaction, parenting competency, and child development; (2) To measure type of attachment achieved by infants in the prison nursery and maintained during the transition to the community in relation to: the inmate mother's own attachment and to participation in either intervention; and (3) To identify the impact of raising an infant on the prison nursery on subsequent short-term criminal recidivism of the mother. Inmate participants and their infants are randomly assigned to one of the two interventions. Implementation of each consists of two concurrent strategies: videotaping of mother and baby followed by discussion with a nurse specialist every 3 months. The content of the post-videotape discussion and related activities differ based on a priori protocols, with the synchrony intervention focused on maternal sensitive response and infant cues, and the child care intervention focused on health. Outcome variables measured include: bi-directional maternal and infant attachment, parent-child interaction, parenting competency, and child development.

Research Team for
"Maternal and Child Outcomes of a Prison Nursery Program"


Mary Byrne, Ph.D., MPH, FAAN
Principal Investigator, "Maternal and Child Outcomes of a Prison Nursery Program"
Dr. Byrne has several years of experience as Principal Investigator in NIH-funded studies focusing on assessment and early intervention for infants, toddlers and children and their caregivers at risk for sub-optimum development and inadequate parenting. She is an Endowed Professor at Columbia University School of Nursing and a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner.
Lorie Smith, RN, MSN
Ms. Smith is the current community coordinator for this study. She is also a doctoral student at Columbia University School of Nursing. Ms. Smith has ten years of experience working with underserved populations, including incarcerated juveniles and adults.
Sarah Joestl, MPH, DrPH Student
Ms. Joestl has been Project Director for the prison nursery study, responsible for assisting Dr. Byrne in all managerial aspects. Ms. Joestl received her MPH from Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health, where she is currently pursuing her DrPH in the Department of Sociomedical Sciences. Her focus is on the link between structural inequality and psychosocial processes as causes of racial disparities in health, particularly in the urban setting. Ms. Joestl has five years of progressive experience working both in the university setting and in the nonprofit sector.

Juliette Clark
Ms. Clark has been the past Project Director for the prison nursery study. Ms. Clark has three years of experience working on funded research projects and six years of consulting experience in private industry. She continues to be involved in dissemination and has currently completed professional dentistry program (DMD).

Carolynn Bitzer MSN, CS, FNP
Ms. Bitzer was a doctoral student at Columbia University School of Nursing and a Graduate Research Assistant for this study from 2005 to 2007.  She is a Family Nurse Practitioner with several years experience caring for underserved populations, both nationally and internationally.
Keosha Bond, MPH
Keosha Bond was the Health Educator for the prison nursery study in its fourth year. Ms. Bond has several years of experience working with community health projects that focused on improving maternal and birth outcomes of underserved populations in New York City. She has also worked closely with health care providers to improve perinatal services in the region and is currently with the New York Academy of Medicine.
Joann Galley, Psy.D., J.D.
Dr. Galley is the study’s Child Development Specialist. She provides training, supervision, and interpretation of the developmental assessments. Dr. Galley has over 10 years of experience as a Neuropsychologist specializing in early intervention evaluations, treatment plans and rehabilitation. She is currently Director of School Psychology Services at a private school for severely disabled children, as well as an adjunct professor at Fordham and Pace University.
Denise Pollard, MS, MPH, CPNP, DNSc
Ms. Pollard was a doctoral student at Columbia University School of Nursing (graduated May 2006) and a Graduate Research Assistant for this study. She was responsible for recruiting participants and implementing the study intervention. Ms. Pollard is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner with experience in primary care for adolescents and early intervention. She is currently Assistant Professor at a university in New York.

Publications & Presentations

Byrne, M. (2005) Conducting research as a visiting scientist in a women’s prison. Journal of Professional Nursing 21(4), 223-230.

Byrne, M. Pollard, D. “Evidence from a Prison Nursery Study to Support Parenting and Child Development.” Plenary session. Child Welfare League of America national conference, Washington D.C., March 8, 2005.

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Byrne, M. "Ethnographic, Self-Report Questionnaire, and Developmental Screening Data to Profile Maternal and Child Health Needs in a Prison Nursery." 2004 National State of the Science Conference, Washington, D.C., October 6-9, 2004.

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Byrne, M. (2002) Post September 11 reflections from a prison nursery. Zero to Three 22(1), 47-48.