Pregnant Behind Bars--my investigative piece for In These Times

The number of women who cycle through U.S. jails is increasing by approximately 1.6 percent each year, to 109,100 in 2014, while the number of women in prisons has risen nearly tenfold in the past 40 years, to 111,300 in 2013. Though the United States accounts for only 5 percent of the world’s women, it has 33 percent of the world’s women prisoners.

There is no current data on how many of those women are pregnant. In 2004, a Bureau of Justice Statistics survey found that 3 percent of women in federal prisons and 4 percent of those in state prisons were pregnant upon arrival. The statistics on pregnancy in local jails is older—a 2002 survey found that 5 percent of women entered local jails pregnant. At those rates, approximately 9,430 pregnant women are incarcerated annually.

There is even less data on what kind of care pregnant prisoners receive: their nutrition, prenatal check-ups and medical attention, which can be a matter of infant life or death in cases like Guerrero’s. Nor do we hear much about the trauma of pregnancy and childbirth under prison conditions, or the heartbreak of having an infant taken away hours after birth.

In a six-month investigation, In These Times reached out to dozens of incarcerated women, activists and advocates, seeking to reach women who had been pregnant behind bars. Twelve came forward to share their stories.

You can read the entire report here: