10 Things You Didn’t Know About Pregnancy in Prison

Saturday, September 7th, 2013 by from Blog from the Belly

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    Image via Flickr/mikecogh

    Imagine finding out you are pregnant, but instead of shopping excitedly for stretchy jeans and cute maternity outfits, you found yourself sporting a very different type of pregnancy style…

    Stripes.

    According to the American Journal of Public Health, between 6 and 10 percent of incarcerated women are pregnant; in one year alone, 1,400 women gave birth while incarcerated in the United States.

    So just what exactly is it like to be a pregnant prisoner?

    Let’s take a look…

    {Continued: Prison Pregnancy #1}

What do you think? 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Pregnancy in Prison

Chaunie Brusie, RN, BSNAuthor

Chaunie Brusie is a writer, speaker, and labor and delivery nurse. She began serving as an advocate for young mothers after discovering her own two tiny blue lines during her senior year of college. She blogs about her journey as a young mom of three at www.tinybluelines.com and her first book, Tiny Blue Lines, is now available. Find Chaunie on ... More

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274 comments

  1. Avatar of Kristal Kristal says:

    SMH… I don’t think passing judgement on these women is ANY of our business. What I do believe is that that should be treated gracefully. In most other countries pregnant “offenders” get to keep their babies with them in a special part of the prison. I believe that these women should get to keep their babies with them in such a manner. Maybe a half-way house for those that are low risk and for those with more serious offenses than they should still be able to keep their babies for up to a couple years in a special “mom and baby” part of the prison. I believe that the mother’s behavior while incarcerated should be taken into consideration and get some time cut off for taking classes and good conduct. The United States penal system is insanely overpopulated. MOST of these people NEED mental health care, or substance abuse treatment but that isn’t how our government likes to operate. Throw them in a cell and cost the taxpayers billions…there are other options, like helping those that need it, not just locking them up. These moms deserve a chance, not to mention their child needs them. They’d be watched over carefully and the ones deemed unfit should have to face the consequences(not being able to have their child with them…). I will always choose to approach the judgement of others with compassion, grace and love-just like Christ. I choose not to ride a high horse, I am God’s child just like ANY of these women and God bless them.

  2. Avatar of Jennifer Jennifer says:

    I could have easily gone to prison for things I was doing but the second I found out I was pregnant my life changed. Been drug free for the last 13 years and have 3 boys that are my world. Some people may not change but some will. I have full custody and placement of my oldest 2 one 50/50 of my youngest, they’re in Scouts and we do many fun family activities. If I would have went to prison and lost my children, they would be missing out on the life that I was willing to give them. Life was no longer about me and having fun, I had a baby to be concerned about and I didn’t think twice about changing. The mentality of a young single person is different than that of a true “mother.” Not everyone is meant to be a mother and giving birth does not make them a mother but they should be given the option to do right if it’s their first child. If they already have children then they obviously don’t put their children first and it’s different.

  3. Avatar of Kiersten Kiersten says:

    I feel that if our system looked more at the infants health (aside from the mothers) and the statistics of the mother infant bond in the first, lets say week of life, they might view things differently. Instead of focusing on the prisoner, let’s focus our attention on the newborn and the CRITICAL bonding and attachment period that is supposed to happen. Mothers absolutely need to be allowed more access to their newborn if not for anything else but the child’s sake.
    There are so many immediate chemical, physiological and emotional connections that are critical for the newborns brain to develop in a healthy way. Statistics show that if the baby does not receive this it hinders their attachment for the rest of their life! How sad that because of their mothers choice, the baby has to suffer.

  4. Avatar of nichole nichole says:

    i agree with the other gals on here. If you are the one doing the crime while pregnant then yes you need to be incarcerated. Yes it stinks that you have to go through all of that but you shouldnt have committed the crime. DONT BE A CRIMINAL WHILE PREGNANT( or any other time really).

  5. Avatar of Neil Neil says:

    No. I absolutely do not feel that pregnant women should be “forced” to go to prison. The people “forcing” them to commit crimes should stop doing so, immediate- wait, what? These women voluntarily commit crimes? Whilst pregnant? no sir!!! lunacy!

    If you commit a crime that calls for incarceration, yep. You go to prison. You don’t pass go. You don’t collect 200. Instead of pissing and moaning about whether these women should be in jail while pregnant, MAYBE WE SHOULD BE TELLING THEM NOT TO BE CRIMINALS WHILE BEING PREGNANT.

    I’m just saying…

  6. Avatar of Jayden Jayden says:

    I have no sympathy. If you can’t do the time, DON’T DO THE TIME. It doesn’t matter if you’re pregnant, diabetic, have ADHD, are autistic, are stupid, have had a “bad” childhood, are psychopathic, or whatever. If you commit a crime, be prepared to face the consequences, and, being an adult who is the ONLY PERSON responsible for your actions, act like an adult (not a baby) and deal with the consequences of your actions.

  7. Avatar of GLENN GLENN says:

    First of all, unless you are a violent offender, you should not be going to prison in the first place. Most citizens who are sent to prison do not belong there. Prisons as designed for violent people. Unfortunately there are people in the United States who believe that people who break laws, any laws, need to go to prison in order to “pay” back society for their misdeeds. WRONG. When someone commits a NON VIOLENT crime especially women who are pregnant need to be given the tools and support systems that will help them to learn from their mistakes and be given an opportunity “make it right” with whom they’ve wronged. For someone to be so calloused as to say something like, “do the crime, do the time”, “you should have thought about that before you had unprotected sex and then committed a crime”. To those people I say, “you are part of the problem”. You should be saying to yourself, “I am so thankful that I have been afforded the grace (unmerited favor) to have never been sent to prison for what I have done in my lifetime. We as a society need to stand up for those who have stumbled by telling the courts and criminal justice system that there is no room in our prisons for non-violent offenders absolutely no room. There are dozens of alternatives that are far more productive. The question that was asked by Ms. Brusie should never had to of been asked. Violent Offenders need to be removed from society until there has been obvious changes. The women who have been convicted of a violent crime and sentenced to prison and are pregnant upon entering, need to be shown respect and gentleness not for the sake of the mother but for the sake of the unborn child who did absolutely nothing wrong to deserve being born in such harsh and hateful conditions. I have no play for anyone who would say otherwise. Thank you for reading what I HAD to say. And may the Paradigm you are currently living in have room for those who have made some mistakes and could use a little help especially if they are pregnant. And to the haters of those who stumble, “stand by” because your life is going to be turned upside down. I promise! G

    • Avatar of Ruth Ruth says:

      I have to admit that I have very mixed feelings about this. Whether or not someone is imprisoned, pregnant or not, MUST depend upon their past record. What if a prisoner is a repeat offender? Is burglary a non-violent crime? So, if you are a chronic burglar, for lack of a better phrase, are we just supposed to give these people a slap on the wrist?

      I’m sorry, but I consider drug offenses to BE violent crimes. Those substances are going into the hands and brains of CHILDREN.

      But to be imprisoned for LITTERING? Passing a bad check? Please.

      Pregnant women should NEVER, EVER be forced to labor alone. They are people, too; no matter what they did that caused them to be incarcerated. Their FAMILIES should be called, and I am quite sure there are plenty of volunteers who would be willing to support these women during the most important time of their lives.

      Pregnant women should ALSO never be placed in belly chains and shackles. There are many other alternatives that are much safer. Also, if they are in the room alone, WHY are they being handcuffed?? WHY should a male prison guard be present as a woman labors??

      No doubt about it, this is something that should be addressed on a federal level. We have a Violence Against Women Act, and it could easily be amended. And if doing such barbaric things to pregnant prisoners isn’t violent, then I don’t know what is.

  8. Avatar of Ashleigh Ashleigh says:

    I agree that you get the punishment from the choices that you make, but on the other hand I would think the state could take a little better prenatal care for these women.

  9. Avatar of Kahlilah Kahlilah says:

    Speaking from experience… If I knew I was pregnant, I would not put myself in a situation that would land me in jail during my pregnancy or that would cause me to be in jail past my due date. That said, it all comes down to the choices you make… Judges have given so many second chances out, only to be disappointed when a familiar face enters their courtroom, that they had to become harsh towards a lot of pregnant women. Everyone isn’t a criminal, but the majority of us have made mistakes and gotten away with them. I don’t condone the way pregnant people are treated in jail but thats what happens when you go to jail. They make the experience as unbearable as possible so people don’t want to come back. And I really feel for women who are innocent that are in prison because that really sucks. Moral of my story is… Try your best to abide by the law if little ones or pregnancy is involved, because it is not pretty. I have never been pregnant in prison, but I have been to the county jail for a week stint and heard/saw the horror stories. I now abide by the law in any way possible because I would never want my kids taken away from me, my parental rights snatched away from me, or deliver a baby in jail/prison. Its all up to the CHOICES YOU MAKE…

    • Avatar of Ruth Ruth says:

      I agree with you. I wonder, however, just HOW those judges would feel if it was THEIR daughter going through this.

      As for non-violent crimes — Is burglary a non-violent crime? What if you are a repeat burglar?

      Many consider drug offenses to be non-violent crimes, but I do not. Those drugs are poison, and they are being placed in the hands of CHILDREN.

      That said, women should NEVER, EVER be forced to labor alone. There is absolutely NO reason why the family cannot be called. I am quite sure there are PLENTY of volunteers who would be available to give these women the support they need as they are bringing their child into the world.

      Belly chains? They should NEVER be used on a pregnant woman unless she is a violent offender. Period. I agree that these women must be guarded. But surely there is something different than a chain that can be used. At some point, one must consider the baby.

  10. Life is full of choices & the world is also full of people, that have no clue about the consequences of poor choices.
    Take the time today; to lovingly explain the circle of life & how good choices give good consequences & bad choices give bad consequences…. it will go a long way to creating a better society; a society in which this would not be a topic of discussion… “Work Hard & Be Nice” it’s really that simple!!!

  11. Avatar of Rebecca Rebecca says:

    Wow, Cammie. It’s sad that you really think that. I for one can attest to never committing any crime where punishment would involve imprisonment. The worst I have done is a traffic violation. No underage drinking, no drugs, no shoplifting, and not even a trial puff of a cigarette. Now I’m not judging these women because I don’t claim to know their situation, I merely wanted to point out the irony of your statement. While complaining about the judgment of others, you are judging all others as criminals themselves. I hate to think of the crowd you hang around if everyone you know in your circle has committed a crime, regardless of how trivial you may think it is.

  12. Avatar of cammie cammie says:

    What gets me is all the comments on this post about “she should have thought about that before she committed a crime & got pregnant”. Who do you think YOU are? There is not ONE person that has not at some point in their lives committed a (even if tiny) infraction that could have landed them in jail. You just didn’t get caught. So, why don’t you stop being all judgmental about women you don’t even know. You can never know how you would handle everything life has to throw at you & you may find yourself (or your child, or grandchild) behind bars one day. Wouldn’t you want to be treated with respect and dignity?

    • Avatar of Ruth Ruth says:

      Yes, there ARE people in this world who have NEVER committed a crime. In my life, I have had exactly THREE speeding tickets, one ticket for failure to yield the right-of-way, and one ticket for almost getting killed by a motorcyclist who ran a red light.

      No crimes. No jail time. Nothing.

      But I still know the difference between right and wrong, and these pregnant prisoners are being horribly abused.

    • Avatar of Kahlilah Kahlilah says:

      Yes some of these comments are harsh, but those women ARE responsible for their own actions. Im sorry but that is why they make it harsh in jail for pregnant women, so they wont come back and others wont want to come in. Now i really feel for you if you didn’t know you were pregnant and land behind bars for years. That sucks. But either way they shouldn’t be treated like dogs/animals just because they made a mistake… Some of that stuff is just cruel and unusual punishment . Seriously… So think before you act please.

      • Avatar of Kahlilah Kahlilah says:

        But I agree with you Cammie. Whether your pregnant or not… Abide by the law at all costs… Coming from a reformed criminal. I was pregnant at my trial and the judge felt that I knew what I did was wrong and that it will never happen again, so he gave me a lot of leniency, because I was pregnant. I don’t hang around people who are criminally inclined, I have become a shut-in, literally… All I do is take care of my kids, work, and read internet posts and books… The only time I venture out is to have fun with my kids. I am now 30 weeks pregnant and on probation for a year and Id be darned if I EVER go back to jail or get on the wrong side of the law again. Ive learned my lesson. But seriously some of you people in these comments are very cruel and its sad to see you don’t have at least a little bit of sympathy or empathy for these women. You probably have never been on the wrong side of the tracks or had a very good upbringing to have had comment like that. You have never been in trouble but 9 times out of 10 you’ve gotten away with criminally inclined activities. Rebecca, I don’t buy that crap about just a traffic violation, and if it is true you were probably born in the suburbs to 2 working class parents, have a degree on your wall of accomplishments, and you’re probably MARRIED too. Now if I’m wrong, I guess I’m just a judgmental witch with a b instead of the w, but I seriously doubt it. Seriously doubt it… Oh and she’s probably a CHRISTIAN as well. Sorry this got my pot stirred.

        • Avatar of Ruth Ruth says:

          What difference does it make if you are a Christian? I come from a family of four kids. We were all raised thehe same way, and all of us turned out differently.

          I was born to working class parents as well.

          My point is that nobody is perfect, but not everyone has committed a crime at some time in their lives.

  13. Avatar of Joe Joe says:

    AAAAAhhhhhh poor babies. The mothers are totally responsible for the situation that they are in. They had the freedom of choice. The choice to be a criminal or not! The choice to have unprotected sex! They exercised their right to choose and obviously chose poorly. Don’t make them out to be some kind of victims, the real victims here are the people who were the target of their criminal activity.

  14. Avatar of Connie Connie says:

    Are we supposed to feel sorry for them? Seriously….they committed a crime, they should have thought of that BEFORE they got pregnant. I don’t feel sorry for them. Be responsible for your actions, for your own lives…..YOU are the one that was in the wrong…just because you got pregnant when you got caught doesn’t give you a free pass to stay/get outta jail! Women are so irresponsible about their own bodies and they are dragging another life into the drama.

  15. Avatar of Virginia Virginia says:

    Prisoners should have adequate medical treatment. Privacy, freedom and dignity is what you give up when you violate the laws. If they really cared about the child they would not break the law. Sorry, but that should prevent you from breaking the laws! Where are the mothering instincts when breaking the law? So, lesson learned, I hope!

  16. Avatar of Brooke Brooke says:

    Laboring alone isn’t something only women in jail have to do…plenty of ladies out there have their children alone. Some of these facts aren’t just facts for women in jail which is pretty silly.

    That being said I don’t feel sorry for women who are incarcerated during their pregnancy. To me there is no bigger way to show you don’t care about your child than to act irresponsibly around it, especially while carrying it. I can only hope that the children born to incarcerated mothers receive good care from people on the outside because it’s apparent that most will not be getting it from their mothers for one reason or another. If you’re out on the streets thieving and rocking the boat you’re not ready to be a parent. Thank goodness a lot of jails don’t embrace the idea that these ladies are special and deserve to spend time with their kids etc because some actually do-for mothers only of course because I guess dads don’t matter?
    Jails are not a place for a baby. Let this be a lesson to those of you out there who play around with the law-this could be you and you don’t want that. Seems to me like there are a lot of incarcerated mothers who want to play the victim here. Another selfish act, your child is the victim if this is how it’s brought into the world. It’s amazing how self centered and pathetic people can be. Boo hoo, maybe next time you’ll think twice about breaking the law.

  17. Avatar of John John says:

    Don’t be a bad person and you won’t be having babies in prison. You write a check for a high enough amount, that is a felony and a felony means prison. Life is hard, it’s harder if you act stupid. Take personal responsibility and quit blaming everyone else because your life blows.

  18. She was jailed for littering and writing a bad check. Seriously??? That is enough to put someone in jail, shackle them for doctor apts and treat them like crap while they are growing a child? This is ridiculous.

    • Avatar of Brooke Brooke says:

      Littering is usually just a fine but writing bad checks is clearly against the law. As for her getting ‘treated like crap’…yeah, jails aren’t made to make you feel at home and welcome. Wearing shackles when leaving the jail is what everyone has to do-you don’t get to walk out with escorts. Nobody gets special treatment because nobody deserves it. Jail is jail.

  19. Avatar of Chari Chari says:

    I agree these women should not receive any special treatment on their time they were given, that was already set by the crime they committed. However, I do believe they deserve better care! Medical care in prison is pretty much non existent and they do deserve real treatment, they deserve better meals and while in labor they deserve someone to be with them and not handcuffed!! And not handcuffed after either~ unless they are a violent offender. During the time they are out of the prison a guard is at their door 24/7 so really is there a need to be in handcuffs? Give them some respect during their labor~ its a stressful and beautiful time. At least let them go through it with dignity.

  20. Avatar of momof2 momof2 says:

    I feel for the babies, not their immature mothers who cry victim in this situation. They did not choose to have convicts for parents. If you don’t want to be pregnant in jail…don’t get yourself in jail…duh! A crime is a crime…period. Just don’t break the law. Laws are created to create order. If you want order in your life abide by the law and you will be happier to say nothing of FREEDOM! If you feel you are somehow above the law then you unfortunately will find yourself with the law “in your face” so to speak. It is pretty simple…right/wrong. Most people inherently know the difference and incarcerated persons choose to go against it. If that is you then okay but don’t cry a river over the fact that you thought the law (order of life on earth) was written for everyone BUT YOU! Get real.

  21. Avatar of Doris Doris says:

    I think first that it depends on the womens crime and record.If it is a crime not harmful to anyone else and she has no violent record then some kind of halfway house or home arrest could be a way, or enen probation. but her being in jail does not mean its ok to treat her badly

    • Avatar of momof2 momof2 says:

      With this way of thinking, an unintended consequence will be realized, eventually.

      That is: gals will be sure to be pregnant while committing their crimes so as to bet treated more leniently. Don’t kid yourself into thinking folks with criminal behaviors have not thought these things through. So have their counterparts, I have had to confront plenty of “parents” whom shoplift items in their children’s clothing so that if caught, the adult will not be charged. That is one example.

      Criminals are not the sharpest tools in the shed, that is why they choose to do wrong instead of right , all the while thinking they are on to a great plan. Because they are dull, they get caught and then can think of nothing but to blame their situation, sad as it may be, on every entity around them. Generally they have forgotten, at that point, that the “great plan” was their own to begin with. The people of this blog who sympathize are simply enablers to others of whom lack responsibility for their own actions/choices. Choices and actions bring consequences good or bad. Don’t forget to think before you act…”what if…” And this includes who you choose as friends.

      • It is always easier to judge others while not being in their shoes. I was lucky to be born to parents who had some means. Not everybody is that lucky. As a social worker I have met plenty of women who really were born in some terrible circumstances. There are some programs here in IL that helped get them on the right path and now, years later, they are happy, healthy and living with their children and families. Schooling programs and assistance through other means of education and support have really been a key. I am so proud of these strong and hard working women. They turn their lives around and all they need is a step. You can’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps when you don’t have any boots.

  22. Avatar of smithstacey smithstacey says:

    Wow..I am all for tough prison sentences, but there are some people full of hate on this site. It seems it would not be harmful to have a family member present during the pregnancy. It also seems appropriate that a lesser prison sentence or a house arrest situation would be better for a mother with a small baby, perhaps depending on their crime. Writing bad checks and things that do not pose a physical threat compared to a violent criminal is a drastic difference and yet, they are all receiving the same punishment, being separated from their child. They all should receive basic medical care and not be shackled when pregnant or breastfeeding..that’s so..archaic. We all know the statistics, 1 in every 100 U.S. citizens are in jail. We have more of our population in jail than any society in the world, and we have the worst rate of rehabilitation of prisoners. I believe what is most upsetting is losing the child after 2 years, unless a family member is allowed to take custody. Imagine knowing that if your judge had given you 6 months less, like another mom who did the same crime, then you’d have your child after you left prison, but you won’t and that other mom will. There needs to be legislation to lay out some type of protection in these situations. It’s not all black and white. When I worked with a prison ministry for women, it was so disheartening to meet women just like me, but from less fortunate situations who were in prison due to desperation or quite often, being an accessory to a crime committed by a man. Frankly if we’re not reforming criminals then the whole system needs to be looked at closely and none more closely than that of expectant mothers. It’s so sad. I’m not saying let them all go free, I’m saying there should be an overhaul in the way things are structured for these mothers.

  23. Avatar of Karin Karin says:

    I fully, totally and 100% agree with Janis and LogicalOne. Pregnant criminals?? … you have already been judged as such and not by me. I am already paying for your ass to be in jail. I get so tired of those that accept zero accountability for their actions and then just make more chaos and drama for themselves. This is a self inflicted deal. Too f-ing bad!

  24. Avatar of katherine katherine says:

    since when do people deserve to be taken? if the judgmental pendulum was swung the other way, it would be WAAAAY different. or at least in your ignorance you’d think so. get real. my mother is a criminal as you put it. who cares what she did, my perfect almost law abiding church going relief society president mother of five is labeled a criminal…what the hell is a criminal anyway? I know it’s poor judgment to flap your gums about things you have no grasp on. EVERYONE deserves special treatment when they are pregnant. why would it matter what choices led them to anywhere?

  25. Avatar of LogicalOne LogicalOne says:

    Boo f-ing hoo! Yes, of course it’s unpleasant to go through pregnancy and childbirth while incarcerated, just like everything is when anyone goes through the consequences of their own bad decisions. The argument that pregnant convicts or those who are new moms deserve special treatment is outrageous, and if done would constitute illegal age and gender discrimination against prisoners who are older women or men, who can’t get pregnant. It would also be rewarding bad behavior and a terrible policy for society – criminals are the last people in the world who should become parents. As for the issue of the baby having a bad life, well duh of course it is, its mom is a criminal with very poor judgment. If these women actually cared about children as they claim, then they would use birth control or terminate the pregnancy and wait to have children until such time as they are in a position to do so – when they are not incarcerated, have gotten counseling and become more mature, have the emotional and financial resources to raise a child, and having the baby’s father in the picture might be nice too.

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