Wednesday, July 15, 2009

New report on prison nurseries

The Women’s Prison Association (WPA) has released the first-ever national report on prison nursery programs. The report examines the expansion of prison nursery programs across the U.S. These programs allow incarcerated women to keep their newborns with them in prison for a finite period of time. The report also looks at community-based residential parenting programs, which allow women to serve criminal justice sentences with their infants in a non-prison setting.

The report finds that the number of prison-based nursery programs is growing, but that such programs are still relatively rare. Though every state has seen a dramatic rise in its women’s prison population over the past three decades, only nine states have prison nursery programs in operation or under development. Of the nine prison nursery programs existing or in development, four were created within the last five years. ...

The report (pdf), Mothers, Infants and Imprisonment: A National Look at Prison Nurseries and Community–Based Alternatives, is available online at
Texas was not listed as one of the states with prison nurseries (which were California, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Nebraska, New York, South Dakota, Washington, and West Virginia). Does anybody know what happens here with incarcerated mothers and young babies? It's a question I've never thought to ask. Texas passed legislation this year limiting authority to shackle pregnant inmates during labor, but I don't know what happens with the babies after they're born.

MORE: A quick search of TDCJ's website on the topic revealed this story from the Galveston Daily News about the birthing center for pregnant mothers at TDCJ's Carole Young medical unit in Texas City:

The minimum-security unit has helped female offenders with medical needs since 1996. It serves both state jail and Texas Department of Criminal Justice offenders. The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston provides the medical care. ...

Between 80 and 100 of the patients at any time are pregnant; inmates assigned to the facility because of its obstetrical clinic typically make up the largest patient group.

After delivery, new mothers on the unit who have permission from the warden participate in the Love Me Tender baby-bonding program, in which they can see their babies not only during scheduled weekend visitation hours, but also for any two-hour period weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The babies are not housed at the unit, but state Rep. Rick Noriega of Houston has filed a bill, HB 1770, which, if passed [ed note: it failed], would provide housing for infants up to 1-year-old.

After one year, Simpson noted, another Texas Department of Criminal Justice program allows extended visitation with children up to 16 years old, so inmates “roll from one program right into another.”

Though this tells me about where pregnant inmates give birth and visitation policies for infants and young mothers, it doesn't provide a clear picture of what exactly happens to young infants after they're born in Texas prisons. Perhaps readers have more information on the subject.


Unknown said...

The mother has just a short opportunity to see and hold her newborn, before custody is turned over to a designated family member, friend or to the state. It's heartbreaking.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to share a brief piece:
10 years ago I was 6 weeks pregnant and sentenced to 150 months (12 1/2 years) in Federal Prison on a Drug Conspiracy charge. I was told by the pretrial officer that even though this was my first offense, I would most likely be allowed 12 hours with my baby when he was born and would be shackled, due to the length of my sentence, during the birth. Thank God that I had a Case Mngr. that fought tooth and nail for me and I was entered into the MINT Program. (Mothers and Infants Together). As I researched this program and the Justice system, I realized that I was one of the first Female Inmates with a sentence over 10 years to be accepted into this program. As soon as I gave birth and got to spend 3 months with my son, take him home to be placed, self reported (again) to the Federal Facility, my sentence was reduced to 5 years thanks to a co-defendent. What if I had been catoragized as the ‘MONSTER’, ‘BAD PERSON’ etc… society is so convinced we are? I would not have had the results with my beautiful son that I had. He is much better today at 10, I truly believe, because he got that binding time with me.
Now, let me tell you what one piece of hope can do for a person who has ultimately lost all hope. In the 5 years that I did not see him, my ultimate goal was to better his life than the way it began. I earned 2 business degrees while incarcerated, 48 self help certificates and awards, self worth that I had never had, and went through pretrial, 5 years in prison, 3 years parole worked 3 jobs after my release and rode the City Transit system to all 3 jobs, never late, met all meeting requirements-never late and all throughout this process I never recieved a negative mark on my record. I vowed that it I got a second chance and a little hope I would never let him feel the pain I felt for the way I brought him into this world.
Today, 5 years after my release, I’m close to a six figure income and have full custody of a well adjusted son. He is 10 now.
All women and men in prison aren’t what society has envisioned. A conspiracy charge is the charge they don’t have to prove, although, in my case, I wasn’t innocent in that my lifestyle was not one of a good contributing member of society. I was messed up, addicted and was being swallowed up by a lifestyle that I truly didn’t know how to get away from. But, I was raised in a good and nurturing home and once I had the skills to adjust and love life without the drugs again, my true self came out and I earned enough college credits for 2 associates degress and became a certified parallegal while incarcerated and now earn just under a 6 figure income and that is due to being comfortable with placing him comfortably and bonding with my son, so that I could get ME better so that HE could be better in life. Going to prison was the 2nd chance I needed to get back on track.
So, please, before anyone puts all inmates who are pregnant in prison, ask yourself one question? How would you want it to be for your daughter if by some crazy chance it happened to them? That’s the question my dad asked himself when he was hit with the fact that his only daughter was going to prison-pregnant with his grandchild! Think about what hope and prayer could do for them!

I want my tax dollars to go for programs that I have experienced myself that I know's obvious that the old 'Lock 'em up and maybe we won't see them' mentality isn't quite making the numbers in the right direction...

sunray's wench said...

bamafanonly ~ well done. Yours is not an isolated case, we just dont get to hear much good news about those who have been incarcerated. Keep doing what you're doing!

Anonymous said...


Your case is a wonderful example what many of us know -- that all people are capable of change and society cannot and should not write off those who end up on the wrong side of the wall. When offenders - particularly those in prison - are ready to change their lives the rest of us need to be there to help them. Being sick and tired of "being sick and tired" is an incredible motivator to make life changes

Congratulations on changing you life - you are a role model for your son and others trying to earn their way back into society as responsible and constructive members of society.

Your story is an inspiration. It points out something that we all know -- a ray of hope and caring people at the right time can have enormous positive impacts. The rest of us need to recognize that many good people are in prison and they want to change their lives. Programs like MINT are needed to help as many people as possible reconstruct their lives. It is money well spent. These programs assist folks to successfully reenter society, reduce recidivism, change lives, improve public safety, and improve quality of life for the rest of us.

Thank you for sharing your story here.

ckikerintulia said...

A wonderful story from bamafanonly.

Anonymous said...

I am a mother in Finland. My 22 yr old is 8 months pregnant and currently in the Galveston County Jail. I have been told that I have 48 hours to fly from Helsinki to TX to " sign for" my granddaughter or the state of TX takes her.

My daughter was placed on a medical psychiatric unit since the jail claims there is no other place to put a pregnant woman. My daughter writes that women babble throughout the day and howl into the night. Is this conducive for stress reduction?
She is in jail for a probation violation and faces appx 2 more months of incarceration.

By Scandinavian social standards, most of my friends see this as barbaric and inhumane.

Now that the new law came into effect September 1, 2009 saying that TX finally has to take a head count of HOW many pregnant inmates it holds, can someone please tell me HOW many has it been determined?