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Pregnant in Prison: Should newborns live with their incarcerated mothers?

08 Regina Zodiacal - Pregnant in Prison Prisoners Child Childcare

Mae Ryan/KPCC

Regina Zodiacal attends a rehabilitation class at the women's prison in Chino, Calif. Seven months into her pregnancy, Zodiacal feared being "trapped" in her cell "going through labor."

07 Regina Zodiacal - Pregnant in Prison Prisoners Child Childcare

Mae Ryan/KPCC

A playground at the visitation center at the California Institution for Women in Chino. Children are allowed to see visit their mothers, but someone must bring them. Cari Hernandez said she had been afraid to bring her cousin's newborn to see her in prison until the guardianship paperwork was complete.

02 Regina Zodiacal - Pregnant in Prison Prisoners Child Childcare

Mae Ryan/KPCC

Regina Zodiacal attends a rehabilitation meeting at the California Institution for Women in Chino, Calif. on March 12th, 2013, when she was seven months pregnant. Zodiacal was incarcerated for a shoplifting incident where she drew a knife - and cashing bad checks.

04 Regina Zodiacal - Pregnant in Prison Prisoners Child Childcare

Mae Ryan/KPCC

Regina Zodiacal stands in the courtyard of the California Institution for Women in Chino, Calif. “My mom wanted a better life for me” said Zodiacal, now 28. “And now she's kind of mad that I'm here.” Zodiacal's mother is raising her 9-year-old son until she is released from prison.


More than 200 inmates gave birth while incarcerated in California’s prison system in 2011 and 2012, according to the most recent data available. Most were back in shackles two days later with their infants off to live with relatives or foster parents. 

Prison policy is to transport laboring inmates to a nearby hospital to deliver. The births cost taxpayers between $6,500 for a normal delivery to about $14,000 for a Caesarean section with complications. If labor is so advanced there’s no time to wait, the ward is equipped to deal with the birth of a child, according to Felix Figueroa, a lieutenant officer at the prison.

Pregnant women in prison have posed a thorny question for guards and rights advocates for decades: How do you balance what’s best for the community with what’s best for the babies born to incarcerated felons?

KPCC’s Deepa Fernandes and photographer Mae Ryan visited pregnant women and new mothers housed at two very different prison facilities. For the full story with photos and additional audio, click here

Let's chat: You can also ask Fernandes questions on Twitter noon Friday, Dec. 13 using the hastag #taketwo. Follow @KPCC and @DeepaKPCC to tune in — we'll also be curating the conversation below. 

#TakeTwo Twitter chat with @DeepaKPCC

 


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