Discovery Fit and Health goes into the prison system to get the stories of women who are Pregnant Behind Bars. Read on to see how women are changing the prison system.
There are roughly 2.2 million people in the U.S. prison system [Source: CNN] – most of whom are men, but with a rapidly increasing female population.
Many of these women enter the jail system pregnant or with children already at home, wishing they had their moms around to care for them.
Of these female prisoners, roughly four in 10 will return to prison in the three years following their release, either for a new crime or for the violation of their parole [Source: Pew].
Read on to learn more about the impact prison has on the lives of American women and their children.
Moms in Prison
70% of women in prison are already mothers.
Not only are the vast majority of women in prison already mothers when they enter through those not-so-metaphorical gates, but many of these women are also the primary caretakers of their children at home [Source: CNN].
As a result, many children, in addition to mothers are impacted by prison sentences. This topic leads us to our next fact...
Children of Inmates
Children of inmates are five to six times more likely to be imprisoned.
A child with only one parent in prison is five to six times more likely to be incarcerated at some point in their lives than a child without a parent in jail. This means that by being a mom behind bars, you greatly increase your child's likelihood of life as an inmate [Source: Oregon's Correctional Department].
America's Prison Babies
1.3 million children are affected by female imprisonment [Source: CNN].
This number includes the children at home when the mother is imprisoned and the babies born and raised in prison.
Read on to hear about the horrific ways in which some women give birth in U.S. prisons.
Birth in Prison
Recent changes in state legislation and health recommendations from the American Medical Association are making this process more difficult for prison employees to carry out, however, shackling is and used to be common practice for pregnant women considered to be a 'flight risk' during delivery.
Thirty-one of these states do not require prison employees to check with medical staff before determining whether or not a prisoner should be restrained [Source: National Women's Law Center].
The Soaring Rate of Incarcerated Women
Between 1977 and 2007 the number of women in prison increased by 832%.
In 30 years, the number of women in jail has increased by over 800% [Source: Institute on Women & Criminal Justice]. Most of these women are imprisoned as a result of drug-related charges; however other leading causes of incarceration are immigration status issues.
Health Risks of Giving Birth in Prison
Only 44% of pregnant inmates receive proper medical examination [Source: U.S. Department of Justice].
According to a 2006 report by the Department of Justice, only 44% percent of pregnant women received a medical examination upon arrival and, of those women, only 35% received any type of pregnancy care including child care, prenatal exercise instructions, special diets, medications or special testing.
Children and their Parents
Only 13 states in the country offer nurseries in prison and of those 13, only two accept children after the age of two [Source: : National Women's Law Center].
The National Women's Law Center partnered with The Rebecca Project to rate prisons across the country based on their prenatal care, shackling, alternative sentencing programs and prison nurseries. Thirty-eight states got a failing grade for not having any nursery programs for children born to incarcerated parents.
Lots More Information
- Baker, Katie J.M. "Most Prisons Still Shackle Female Inmates While They're Giving Birth." Jezebel. Jezebel, 10 Oct. 2012. Web. 06 Aug. 2013.
- Berg, Alex. "Stop Shackling Pregnant Prisoners!" The Daily Beast. Newsweek/Daily Beast, 04 Sept. 2011. Web. 06 Aug. 2013.
- "Birthing Behind Bars." Http://nationinside.org/. Nation Inside, n.d. Web. 6 Aug. 2013.
- "BOP: Quick Facts." BOP: Quick Facts. Federal Bureau of Prisons, 2013. Web. 06 Aug. 2013.
- Cooper, Anderson. "Putting a Human Face on Prison Statistics." Web log post. CNN. Cable News Network, 23 Feb. 2007. Web. 06 Aug. 2013.
- "Incarcerated Women." Http://www.sentencingproject.org/. The Sentencing Project, 2012. Web. 6 Aug. 2013.
- Laudano, Jennifer. "Pew Finds Four in 10 Offenders Return to Prison Within Three Years - The Pew Charitable Trusts." Pew Finds Four in 10 Offenders Return to Prison Within Three Years - The Pew Charitable Trusts. Pew Research Center, n.d. Web. 06 Aug. 2013.
- Maruschak, Laura M. "Medical Problems of Jail Inmates." Http://www.bjs.gov/. Department of Justice, Nov. 2006. Web. 6 Aug. 2013.
- "Mothers Behind Bars: States Are Failing." National Women's Law Center. National Women's Law Center, 2010. Web. 06 Aug. 2013.
- "Quick Facts -- Women & Criminal Justice - 2009." Http://www.wpaonline.org/. Institute on Women & Criminal Justice, n.d. Web. 6 Aug. 2013.