The children of women who are imprisoned (in this case, for drug offenses, which he builds the case, are largely beyond the convicted person's control) are robbed of the person who very often provides the only, albeit, not always stable, connection for the child. Maté speculates that this has a lasting effect on the child's ability to form relationships, and predisposes him/her to a variety of other factors that lead to addiction. And thus the cycle continues. His statement regarding the War on Drugs was particularly concerning to me: "The human cost is devastating. One result, which is especially cruel and which will have a terrible impact on American life for many generations is the large increase in the number of women incarcerated for drug violations...Many of those jailed for drug violations were mules or assistants...Many are the mothers of small children who will be left without maternal care, and most probably without any parental care at all. The engine of punitive punishment of mothers will haunt this nation for many years to come."
He also describes the disproportionate impact of anti-drug policies on communities including Native communities. At the risk of sounding Pollyanna-ish, I couldn't help but be somewhat convinced that health disparities and the cycles of addiction, abuse and sometimes suicide, could be ameliorated through a focus on community-based compassionate support for these women (among others) rather than imprisonment, and how much more effective and economical this approach would be. So many social issues seem to come down to childhood experiences and intergenerational effects of racist policies such as displacement, forced boarding schools, and other means of disempowering groups of people. I have nothing to add as to "how" this might work at this point, but wanted to capture some of this morning's thoughts before I go on to other things and lose track of them completely.
I'll end with another memorable quote from the book: “In the real world there is no nature vs. nurture argument, only an infinitely complex and moment-by-moment interaction between genetic and environmental effects.”