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 prisonpath.com