Prison Nurseries: Are They Good for Mother and Baby?

I had the honor of being part of an event with Karen Shain, former Policy Director at Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and, through WORTH's Birthing Behind Bars campaign, supporting LSPC's efforts to end the shackling of people in women's throughout all stages of pregnancy.

When talking about pregnancy, birth and parenting from behind bars, questions about prison nursery programs often arise. Shain addresses the complicated issue of placing moms and babies in prison nursery programs (rather than, say, outside programs that would allow them to stay with or near all of their children, not just their newborns):

Prison nurseries are complicated. I have known many women who would have been excellent mothers and never gotten the chance because they were incarcerated and then lost their parental rights because they had no one to take care of their children.

Over the past 18 years, I have spoken with countless women who lost their parental rights as a result of incarceration. I spoke with many women who were pregnant and were dreading the moment of separation after giving birth. Women who give birth in jail and face separation don’t get to feel the hope and excitement that many new moms experience. Often, they feel grief and stress. And that’s not good for them or for their babies.

Most incarcerated women are convicted of non-violent crimes, mainly related to poverty or drug addiction. The number of women in prisons and jails in this country has been increasing steadily since the mid-1980s. The imprisonment of women continues to rise at a faster rate than men, and the number of children in foster care continues to grow as well. Californians across the state agree that people with non-violent convictions should not be doing jail or prison time. They prefer that people received drug treatment to incarceration. They are tired of putting good money after bad into jails and prisons rather than providing education, health care and social services to communities in crisis.

You can read her entire blogpost about the issue at: