I never had children. But from what I can tell, it was a life-changing experience. Obviously, I’m being silly. Of course, pregnancy and having a baby changes your whole world, and it can be one of the most exciting times of your life.
Although I am not a mother, I am an aunt. I’ve learned a few things about what life is like when you’re looking forward. Moms must take care of themselves, eat healthy, avoid alcohol, avoid/limit caffeine, and stay as active as possible. From diapers to parenting, there’s a lot of preparation and planning.
Pregnant women also have this “brilliance,” and every now and then they get special treatment, like a special parking space near a store, or someone gives up their seat on the subway.
When a woman is pregnant with a child, it makes perfect sense for her to take care of herself to the best of her ability and for her community to do everything in its power to ensure a successful pregnancy.
But what happens when a pregnant woman commits a crime and is jailed? Did the government really force that woman to spend her pregnancy in prison and give birth in prison? All of these questions lead us to today’s blog post: If you’re pregnant, do you go to jail?
In this blog post, I will cover the following topics:
- What’s Prison Like If You’re Pregnant?
- What if you get pregnant in prison?
What’s Prison Like If You’re Pregnant?
First, to answer the blog post question directly: yes, you can go to jail if you get pregnant. In fact, expectant mothers get zero special treatment, aside from a few minor gestures.
In the prison where I was incarcerated, pregnant inmates were guaranteed a lower bunk, or “Cadillac bed,” so they didn’t have to climb into the upper bunk while they were pregnant. I’m pretty sure pregnant inmates also had special diets to get extra fruits and veggies during pregnancy.
When I was in the county jail before being transferred to the jail, pregnant inmates were given “double servings” at mealtimes, meaning they had two trays because they served two.
Other than that, I’m not aware of any special treatment for pregnant prisoners.
according to NPR, more than 100,000 women are currently incarcerated in the United States, a sevenfold increase since 1980. However, state DOCs and the federal Bureau of Prisons have not kept pace with this huge increase in the health care needs of the number of female prisoners.
recently published in American Journal of Public Health, Dr. Carolyn Sufrin—an obstetrician at Johns Hopkins Medicine—found that pregnant prisoners varied widely in the type of medical care they received.
“We know that any incarcerated person, especially a pregnant incarcerated person, receives a wide variety of medical services,” Sufrin said. “While the Constitution mandates that prisons and all incarcerated institutions provide health care for those in them, these There is no mandatory oversight that institutions have to comply with. So you get all sorts of … some places that actually provide relatively good pregnancy care, and others that provide harmful, negligent or lacking pregnancy care.”
Once a pregnancy is confirmed by the prison, the inmate makes regular appointments with an OB at a hospital outside the prison. Pregnant inmates are handcuffed during transport.
When a prisoner gives birth, they are taken to a hospital so they can give birth – if there is enough time. There are many stories of women giving birth in cells or somewhere in prisons.
When the prisoners were in the delivery room, they would be handcuffed to the bed. After delivery, prisoners are allowed to stay with the newborn for a few hours (ranging from 4 to 48 hours), after which they must give the baby to friends or family. If they have no one to care for the child, CPS will step in.
The prison I was in was located near the Amish community, and some pregnant inmates had Amish families to care for their children while they were serving their sentences. Once they are released, the family returns the child to the mother, unless an agreement is reached with the family to keep the child because the mother cannot afford to care for the infant.
In general, the daily life of a pregnant prisoner is not much different from that of a normal prisoner. They still have to go to school or work, and their freedom is denied like everyone else. The big difference is that they are regularly taken to a hospital outside the prison for appointments.
One of the saddest things I’ve witnessed in prison is a new mother not returning from the hospital with her baby after giving birth. It’s heartbreaking.
I should point out that women’s prisons in the United States are very different from other countries in terms of holding mothers. I know that both Italy and Australia allow pregnant prisoners to take their baby with them after giving birth and provide mother and child with a proper living space without the appearance of a cell.
A handful of women’s prisons in the U.S. are implementing programs for female inmates with young children, but progress has been very slow.
What if you get pregnant in prison?
It would be a big deal if an inmate got pregnant in prison. Back in 2003, President Bush signed the Prison Rape Elimination Act (commonly known as PREA) to help reduce sexual assault and violence in women’s prisons.
Before PREA, it was not uncommon for female prisoners to be sexually assaulted by officers, some of whom became pregnant. After PREA, if an officer impregnated an inmate, he would lose his job, and he would likely be prosecuted for sexual assault.
As for a female prisoner, she has the option of having an abortion, placing the baby up for adoption, or granting temporary custody to family, friends or CPS until release.
Since nothing is universal in prisons, I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of variation in how prisons handle a prisoner who gets pregnant by an officer. There are rumors at WERDCC that a girl was sent down the hole after she was caught having sex with an officer.
However, thanks to PREA, female prisoners are treated as involuntary victims, so they are not punished too harshly. I’ve looked for evidence on how to handle this situation to support my hypothesis, but haven’t been able to find anything definitive in my research.
PREA has not ended sexual assault in prisons, far from it. Officers and prisoners are sexually assaulted inside prisons every day. In my experience, it does reduce the number of female inmates getting pregnant in prison. I know of two officers who had inappropriate relationships with prisoners and both lost their jobs when it was discovered.
The prison also stipulates that it is illegal for male officers to conduct body searches on female inmates, and that male officers are not allowed to be alone with female inmates — especially where the cameras cannot see them.
The issue of pregnant inmates in prisons is truly a forgotten one. As the number of female inmates has exploded over the past four decades, the DOC and BOP have really lagged behind when it comes to prenatal care. This is just one of many problems with the US prison system.
Should female prisoners giving birth in prisons be allowed more time with their newborns, as is done in Australia and Italy? Let us know in the comments below.
Sources: Pregnant Behind Bars: What We Do and Don’t Know About Pregnancy and Incarceration What Happens When A Pregnant Woman Goes To Jail? You Might Be Surprised Babies and Toddlers Are Living With Their Mums In Prison. We Need To Look After Them Better Pregnancy Outcomes In US Prisons Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA)