Programs that allow pregnant prisoners to keep their babies and raise them in prison appear to have benefits for both the babies and their mothers. prisons each year, and the vast majority are separated from their babies soon after delivery.According to a recent report, two-thirds of the over 200,000 women incarcerated nationwide have children under the age of 18. But at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women in New York, a small program allows prisoners to raise their babies while incarcerated for up to eighteen months following birth.A study found 33% of pregnant prisoners who were separated from their babies returned to prison while only 10% of those allowed to raise their babies while incarcerated came back.That reduction in recidivism saves ,000 per year for each former prisoner who would otherwise have returned to prison, and helps make up for the ,000 cost to keep a baby with its imprisoned mother.Bedford has the oldest prison nursery in the country, dating back to 1901.The prisoners who participate in the program are carefully selected and do not include anyone convicted of a violent crime, arson or a crime with a child victim.“It’s hard.” Mc Dougall said giving birth to Max was a blessing.“I’ve had time to clean up my act and really see where I was headed,” she stated. I think at the end of it all now, I kind of think this saved my life.” Mc Dougall’s experience isn’t unusual.
“If that woman stays out of jail for five years, think of the savings,” said Liz Hamilton, who runs the prison’s nursery program.
“It’s keeping that child from the foster care system.
Those accepted into the program reside in a unit separated from the general prison population; they are still subject to the usual prison rules, including prohibitions on jewelry and makeup.
“We don’t have a lot of space,” said Jacqueline Mc Dougall, 26, whose son Max lived the first nine months of his life in prison.
That’s another expensive program.” The babies also appear to benefit. Janet Stockheim visits the Bedford facility every other week, performing checkups that might not have happened if the babies were living elsewhere. bonding gives a baby trust in the world that they will be taken care of.“These babies aren’t aware [of the prison environment]. The babies do better here than they would on the outside with some of the mothers.” Prisoners in the nursery program spend most of the day with their babies, performing chores in the unit.