What should be done with the pregnant female prison inmate? With her baby?

It is estimated that 1 in 25 women in state prison are pregnant when admitted, and more than 1,400 babies are born in prison each year. Pregnant inmates need special diets, lighter work assignments, supportive programs, and a less stressful environment. Programs and resources are needed for miscarriages, premature birth, and deliveries.  Not all prison or staff are properly trained or equipped for handling and treating pregnant inmates.  One example was the case of Ms. Jorge who explained the awful condition she faced at the Metropolitan Detention Center in, Brooklyn, and the horrific treatment she was exposed to by the prison staff.  The case brought one federal judge to apologize to women who had been pregnant while at the jail, saying there treatment was a source of shame for him. Another federal judge expressed reluctance about sending women to the jail because what she had heard about the conditions there made it sound more like “a prison in Turkey or some third-world country” than a federal prison in the United States. The National Association of Women Judges, which sent a delegation to the jail, said the conditions in the women’s wing were “unconscionable” and violated United Nations rules pertaining to treatment of prisoners. Until recently, the major options were abortion, placing children with relatives, putting the children up for adoption, or foster care. Not only do such forced separation policy options pose severe emotional anguish and problems for mothers, but also separation of the newborn child from the mother can create severe emotional and developmental problems for the infant. Many prisons are now starting to provide family services as well as classes in child development and parenting, parental functioning, and stress management. Some female prisons have even started programs that allow young infants to remain with their mothers. For example, Washington State has a nursery program at its female prison in Gig Harbor that includes an Early Head Start component. Inmate mothers are accountable for the 24-hour care of their children while living in a supervised environment.  California’s Community Prisoner Mother Program is operated by the state’s department of corrections and is described in Correctional Practice 18.2.46 Other states have policies that permit babies to live with their mothers for up to a year, require immediate foster care placement, or do not permit the mother to see the baby (Allen, 2017).  After doing research on this topic, I believe that pregnant woman need to be in separate housing units with the proper medical team on hand.  I know this would cost the taxpayers even more money, but it is for the safety of the inmate and more importantly the child.  I feel that the Washington State nursery program is the best options for the newborn and his or her mother.

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