Context of the Problem
In almost all the cultures men and women are treated differently. According to a study, “in no country do women have political status, access, or influence equal to men. The sweep of women's political subordination encompasses the great variety of cultures, economic arrangements, and regimes in which they live" (Chowdhury and Nelson, 1994; p. 3). Women of present society are fighting for their rights and reproductive freedom; but what does reproductive freedom mean for incarcerated women? It has been observed that pregnant female inmates are facing much more trouble in exercising their reproductive rights. They are neither given proper care for healthy pregnancy and to give birth nor they are allowed to have abortion.
The most important obstacle, pregnant inmates have to face, is coercion to have an abortion. Thy have to fight with authorities for their reproductive rights for either access to abortion or to avoid a pressured abortion.
United States Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Prisons had issued a clear outline for the rules for Birth Control, pregnancy, abortion and child placement. These rules are:
- “ Birth Control: Medical staff shall provide an inmate with advice and consultation about methods for birth control and, where medically appropriate, prescribe and provide methods for birth control
- Pregnancy: (a) The Warden shall ensure that each pregnant inmate is provided medical, case management, and counseling services. (b) In order to ensure proper medical and social services, the inmate shall inform the institution medical staff as soon as she suspects she is pregnant. (c) Medical staff shall arrange for the childbirth to take place at a hospital outside the institution
- Abortion: (a) The inmate has the responsibility to decide either to have an abortion or to bear the child. (b) The Warden shall offer to provide each pregnant inmate with medical, religious, and social counseling to aid her in making the decision whether to carry the pregnancy to full term or to have an elective abortion. If an inmate chooses to have an abortion, she shall sign a statement to that effect. The inmate shall sign a written statement acknowledging that she has been provided the opportunity for the counseling and information called for in this policy
- Child Placement: (a) The Warden may not permit the inmate's newborn child to return to the institution except in accordance with the Bureau of Prisons policy governing visiting. (b) Child placement is the inmate's responsibility. The Warden shall provide opportunities for counseling by institution staff and community social agencies to aid the inmate with placement. (c) The institution staff shall work closely with community agencies and persons to ensure the child is appropriately placed. The staff shall give notice to the responsible community agency of the inmate's plan for her child. Child welfare workers may come to the institution in appropriate cases to interview and counsel an inmate” (Federal Bureau of Prisons, 1996)
But these laws are not followed as it is in most of the prisons. This paper will delve into the analysis of these rules and try to formulate a better strategy for pregnant inmates.
Statement of the Problem
This study will attempt to determine the present status of pregnant women in prisons and analyze the rules and how these rules are violated. It is a common knowledge that although a clear outline is provided by the Federal government for reproductive rights of female inmates but these rules are not followed in any prison of United States. This study discusses some of the common violation of these rules and decides what is the better strategy for inmate mothers.
How Rules of Prison Birth Violated?
What will be the better strategy for future?
“Dolores M. was seven months pregnant and addicted to heroin when she violated her probation. The sentencing judge gave her six months, apparently to keep her confined for the remainder of her pregnancy. She was forced to go cold turkey in jail, instead of being treated with methadone, the standard of care for pregnant women. She suffered abdominal pain, headaches, vomiting, and other symptoms, and did not see an obstetrician for six weeks. Close to her due date, she experienced severe pain and could no longer feel the fetus move; it was removed, stillborn, by cesarean” (Barry, 1996; p.249).
United States have a prison population of more than two million prisoners. Women constitutes almost ten percent of this population but since 1995 women population in prison has been increasing with much faster rate as compared to men. Statistics of United States Bureau of Justice depicted that women population has been increasing in prisons with great rate and among these female inmates 6 percent of women in local jails and 5 percent in state prisons are pregnant (Greenfeld and Snell, 1999). Women in prisons also victimized sexually, which can also lead towards, unwanted pregnancy (Amnesty International, 2001). Rate of miscarriages and stillbirths are very high in the premises of prison. According to a study, miscarriage and stillbirth rates are almost 50 percent higher in prisons than the outside world (Youth Law News, 1999).
According to the Federal Bureau of Justice and Federal Bureau of Prisons rule women have the right for healthy pregnancy or abortion but most of the female inmates may not enjoy these rights and privileges. For example in 1998 Judge Patricia Cleary Sentenced a pregnant woman just to ensure that she may not have an abortion. Judge Cleary said in this regard, “I’m saying she [Kawaguchi] is not having a second-term abortion” (The Plain Dealer, 1999). According to Kawaguchi, “It’s been a hard personal journey. I’m really hoping that nobody else has to go through what I’ve gone through,” but this decision had given her “stronger opinion about how a person has a right to choose” (Kropko, 2002). Different reporters and advocates have mentioned the clear violation of rules provided by United States Bureau of Justice and United States Bureau of Prisons in states like California, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, New York, New Jersey, Texas etc. (Roth, 2004). United States Congress had cut down the budget for abortion in Federal prisons, and limited it to the abortion in rape cases or when the life is endangered for pregnancy, and so women have to pay for the cost of transportation and for the guard’s time, this has increased the cost of abortion.
Reporters, advocates and leaders of women’s liberation have been protesting for twenty five years that pregnant women were not transferred to hospitals, in many jails, till the last moment. These delays often caused births in cars or in cells. For example in 1998 a female inmate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin had told the guards that she was in labor, guards referred her to the duty nurses who did not give attention to her and tell that she was lying and she had given birth in her cell alone and unattended (Held, 1999).
Women who are fortunate enough to reach to the hospitals were “handcuffed, shackled around the belly, and placed in leg irons when being transported to receive medical care, even when they are in active labor, and are typically shackled to the hospital bed when they give birth and for the duration of their stay”. According to interviews and survey of Orleans Parish Prison in Louisiana, women were shackled, and not provided with adequate medical care in problems like ovarian cysts etc. American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana’s executive director had said that this clear violation of Women’s rights and rules provided by United States Federal Bureau of Prisons is a threat for the lives of pregnant inmates (Perlstein, 1999).
With the efforts of Chicago Legal Advocacy for Incarcerated Mothers (CLAIM), Illinois became the first and only state, in 2000, which made the law that no woman inmate will be shackled during labor and delivery.
Women who survived all the obstacles of pregnancy and give birth to child were usually separated from their newborn baby and send back to prisons again. For example, “Giving birth in a Texas prison is not exactly a cause for unmixed celebration. The expectant mothers get good prenatal care and professional birthing facilities, and a brief period of postnatal affection and nursing. But shortly after the births, the infants are delivered to whatever outside care arrangements have been made for them, and the mothers return to the general prison population (Hindery, 2004). Amnesty International reported that, “In 1997-98, more than 2,200 pregnant women were imprisoned and more than 1300 babies were born to women in prison. In at least 40 states, babies are taken from their imprisoned mothers almost immediately after birth or at the time the mother is discharged from the hospital” (Green Tit, 1999). It is an irony that most women sent far from their home, as there is usually one women prison in their state. This has hurt their family relationship as well as their parental rights (Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and Prisoner Legal Services, 2001).
The best option for the betterment of mother, child and family is that the newborn baby should remain with mother. The Chairperson of Ohio House’s children and Family Services Committee, Ms. Winkler said that, “ There is nothing better than to have the baby with the mother, it's a good idea for the safety and welfare of the babies. Anything we can do to support families we have to do” (CLARK, 2000). There are only few prisons in some states, which have proper nurseries for new mother where she can live with her infants. But only a few female inmates have the opportunity to avail this facility (Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons, 1998).
New York is the first state, which offers prison nursery for female inmates and their infants. Women inmates were remain together with their infants for 12 to 24 months, depending on the state’s policy. After that Prison nurseries are also started in Illinois, Washington and Ohio. Women prisoners lived in dormitory style rooms of these nurseries with their infants. Rooms are decorated with double bed, locker, crib etc. Director of Bedford Hill’s Children’s Center, Tony Campoamor said, “The philosophy behind the program is that the babies and mothers have the opportunity to form an attachment during the first year of the baby’s life. Even though they have to leave the nursery at 12 months, they have the beginnings of that internal working model that says, the world is safe, and I am safe in the world” (Hindery, 2004).
Thus the analysis of rules for prison births depicts that although clear outline was provided for female inmate in the matters of abortion, pregnancy and child placement but these laws are violated in almost all of the prisons. Similarly inmate mothers are usually separated from their newborn babies and returned back to prison. This has affected the bond between the child and mother, providing prison nurseries enhance the chance of better parenting of children and strong family bond.
This study is a qualitative analysis of primary sources to include major studies and researches on the issues, which determine the status of inmate mothers and analysis of rules of prison births.
This study did not conduct any survey of its own but use different books and research studies conducted by different scholars to determine what is the status of women in prisons, how the rules for prison births and rights of female inmates violated, and what will be the better strategy for mothers and expected mothers behind the bars?
This is not a very comprehensive study; it just touches the issue and has not delved into the matters like what are the causes of increasing population of women in prison, why rate of pregnant inmates increased, why proper medical care is not provided in pregnancy and abortion, why the concept of infant nurseries are not adopted by all the states and why the admission in such nurseries is so difficult etc?
As the study did not gather data itself for the research, it limits itself on the data gathering, data analysis and results of other studies in this topic. Similarly data collection, sampling and analysis of major variables are not the issues of this study because it completely relied on the data gathering, sampling and variable analysis of other studies.
The study will use the qualitative methodology because the field of this study is very vast and is very difficult to conduct a survey or prepare a questionnaire, which covers all the issues, which clearly defines these all points.
Conclusion and Significance of the Study:
United States has much higher crime rate than Japan, Saudi Arabia and China. It has been estimated that an average man has 89 percent probability of being a victim of a crime while an average woman has 73 percent probability of being a victim (BJS, 1987). It has also been estimated that although most of the crimes are not reported but still a murder is reported to police every 29 minutes, a rape crime is reported at every five minutes, a robbery at every minute and an assault every 31 seconds. Similarly crimes like motorcycle theft reported at every 23 seconds and a burglary is reported every 13 seconds in our society (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1998).
There are two reasons for that. First United States lacks the shared traditions of those societies that encourage citizens to continuously scrutinize and informally impose sanctions on one another. Second, because of United States tremendous cultural diversity, its socialization process cannot impose the same value system on everyone. So short of trying to entirely reshape American culture, one can only hope to discover formal, external controls that might help to deal more effectively with crime.
Early researchers found that certainty, not severity, of threatened punishment serves to deter. Later researcher described that interaction of formal and informal sanctions are the key to the puzzle. In other words, legal punishment like arrest and jail are most effective when they set off more intimidating informal costs: stigma (embarrassment); attachment costs (loss of relationship); and commitment costs like loss of educational, occupational, and marital opportunities (William and Hawkins, 1986). As number of female inmates increases day by day so the matter of reproductive freedom become more and more complicated. Women prisoners cannot fight alone for their reproductive rights, they need outside help for this purpose but the 1996 Prison
Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) made it almost impossible to challenge the conditions of prisons.
This complicated situation for pregnant inmates provides the opportunity to Federal and State governments to re-consider the rules for imprisoning persons involved in non-violent crimes. It has an important point to consider that United States government was spending $25 billion in 1996; today only California State Prison spending is around $ 6 billion. This is why State of California has to build 23 new prisons and only one new university during last 20 years (Braz, 2000). This has obviously had a great impact on prison conditions. Federal Government had limited its medical care to such pregnancy cases, which have either caused due to rape or it endangers the life of the woman.
This study is important because it may further more significant and larger research efforts in the future regarding the status of Pregnant inmates. Based upon the results of this study, those persons performing research on this topic will attain greater knowledge and understanding of the problems and status of pregnant women in prisons and the rues for prison births.
The result of the study have shown that the rules provided by the United States Federal Bureau of Justice and United States Federal Bureau of Prisons are violated in almost all of the prisons of United States.
Purpose of the Study:
The major objective of this study is to determine the position and status of pregnant inmates, as well as the analysis of rules for prison births.