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Should the Incarceration of Pregnant Women be Avoided?

            Women are the fastest growing population in prisons today. Two thirds of these female inmates are mothers of children younger than age 18. The majority of imprisoned mothers are single parents who primarily committed non-violent crimes such as drug possession, shoplifting, fraud and prostitution (Wirpsa, 1998). According to Justice Work literature, a closer look into women involved in the criminal justice system shows that they are there because of lack of education, poverty, homelessness, drug addictions, and spousal abuse. Leslie Acoca (1998) states that given the rapidly increasing numbers of incarcerated woman and that a great number are in fact young and in their childbearing years, pregnant inmates are becoming increasingly common.
             In 1996, the National Counsel on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) did a study indicating that 18 percent of women inmates interviewed had given birth at some time during a past or present prison term (Acoca & Austin, 1998).
             Motherhood is a common theme in women's prisons. Most get to see their children only on weekends, seldom or never because within hours of delivery, they"re newborn infant will be removed from their care and placed with relatives or foster parents. These infants are often unable to visit their mothers because they are returned to the mother's county of commitment, which in most cases is geographically distant from where the woman is being incarcerated. These early years of life are very important developmental stages for a child, often determining their future health and developmental potential. The incarceration of pregnant women should focus not only on the inmates unique physical and mental needs during their pregnancy but their status as mothers after the child is born-and most crucial the children themselves who are severed from their mothers. It is these children of incarcerated women that unfortunately suffer the consequences of repeating the cycle.

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