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Pregnant Inmates & “Orange is the New Black”



The outside world does not think about or consider that our prisons and jails have pregnant inmates. A sub plot of the hit series, “Orange is the New Black” has revolved around the pregnant inmate, Daya Diaz. In season 3, Daya Diaz, played so well by Dascha Polanco, is tired of being pregnant in prison. More importantly, she has to decide whether to keep her baby or give her baby to Delia, an upper middle class mother.

Do our prisons and jails have pregnant inmates? Is this a wide spread problem? The Sentencing Project reported in 2012, that the number of women in prison increased by 646% between 1980 and 2010, rising from 15,118 to 112,797. If we included women in local jails, more than 205,000 pregnant women were incarcerated. The report also noted that most women were imprisoned for nonviolent offenses–drug and property crimes. It was estimated that 5-9% of women incarcerated were pregnant.

In “Orange is the New Black,”Daya had sex voluntarily with one correctional officer and coerced sex with another guard. Sexual relations between correctional officers and inmates are prohibited in all states and the federal prison system. Women in prison are more likely than men to be victims of staff sexual misconduct. More than 75% of all reported staff sexual misconduct involved women who were victimized by male correctional staff.

What choices does Daya have about her baby? In the show, Daya can give her child to her not so responsible family members to raise the baby while she finishes the three remaining years of her sentence or give her baby up for adoption.

In the outside world, a number of states have created prison nurseries allowing women to keep their new born children  with them behind bars. Depending on the state, it is a limited time from one month to three years. Only 8 states currently have prison nurseries. Research has shown that mothers participating in prison nurseries have a substantially lower recidivism rate and that the babies have thrived better with their mothers.

Once again, “Orange is the New Black” has portrayed realistically a controversial issue about women’s prisons and jails—pregnant inmates.

By: Bradley Schwartz
Founder of



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9 Responses to Pregnant Inmates & “Orange is the New Black”

  1. PrisonPath June 26, 2015 at 12:41 pm #

    Thanks Bradley Indeed a serious issue. Many women enter prison whilst pregnant too. In France we also have contact visits where women can become pregnant as well. So long as the sentence is short it is dealt with by early release and baby nurseries in jail. With longer sentences it’s heart breaking as women have to be seperated from their children. It’s been one of my fights here… The issue of guards’ misconduct is dealt with a pure and simple ban: no male guard is allowed inside female prisons. Female prisons may have a male governor and a few male higher admin staff, but there’s no male guard in the landings, cells, etc. Best wishes martine

  2. PrisonPath July 3, 2015 at 12:44 pm #

    I’m going to take issue with this article… not about staff sexual misconduct or the prevalence of incarcerated pregnant women, but the idea that Orange is the New Black protrays anything realistically. Orange is the New Black is entertainment first. I was assigned to another female federal facility for seven years. I never saw a case of a staff member impregnating an inmate (that’s not to say sexual misconduct did not occur) and the prevalence of pregnant inmates was not nearly at the rate this article suggests. Both incarcerated females and staff misconduct are two very serious issues that need to be addressed in corrections…. reducing them to a storyline serves no purpose other than to sensationalize the topics for the sake of ratings.
    By Susan

  3. PrisonPath July 3, 2015 at 12:44 pm #

    Susan, then they better stop shows like oz, prison break, and the likes,


  4. PrisonPath July 3, 2015 at 12:45 pm #

    I don’t have an issue with “prison” shows. I believe in a free market… people will either watch them or they won’t. I have an issue with the idea that Orange is “realistic.” When I am asked about Orange (because friends know I worked in a female prison), I smile and politely respond that it is entertainment TV not a documentary and leave it at that.
    By Susan

  5. PrisonPath July 3, 2015 at 12:46 pm #

    Very true Susan. people believe that’s what prison is, based on these shows.

  6. PrisonPath July 3, 2015 at 12:46 pm #

    I would love to develop and teach a course on images of prison life and pop culture… Something that would not only look at the myths and the reality, but the changing images over time.

  7. PrisonPath July 3, 2015 at 12:46 pm #

    I would somehow like to do an awareness thing as well. People really have NO idea.

  8. PrisonPath July 3, 2015 at 12:53 pm #

    Good article, I have worked with some of the women incarcerated and pregnant behind bars. I have also witnessed plenty of babies be born, and taken away from their mothers shortly after and put into foster care.

  9. PrisonPath July 3, 2015 at 1:02 pm #

    I blame it on Hollywood!

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