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Old 05-19-2006, 09:24 AM
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Default Babies Behind Bars

With California inmates expected to give birth to more than 300 babies this year, officials are preparing to open the state's first prison nursery

Vicki Haddock, Insight Staff Writer
Sunday, May 14, 2006

Juanita Massie can recall her baby's kicks inside her belly, how her water broke, how hard she strained in labor as the contractions intensified. But her most vivid memory is humiliation -- she was shackled to a bedrail. And the sensation of cuddling her newborn was fleeting, because the baby was whisked away by a social worker -- and Massie was transported back to her 8-foot-by-12-foot prison cell.
"I couldn't show anybody the baby pictures. I cried every single day for a month," she said. "I couldn't stop thinking about missing the first time my baby smiled, or threw up on me, or took that first step. ..." Her hormones ricocheted wildly, she ached from the milk that would not be nursed out of her swollen breasts, and she says she used heroin smuggled into the prison to deaden the shame and loneliness.
"When you're a mother, the first place you want to be is with your baby," she said. "And the last place you want to be is in prison."
An inmate giving birth is almost an everyday occurrence in California. This year more than 300 babies are expected to be born to women incarcerated by the state, and at any given time, about 1 in 10 of the state's female inmates is pregnant. That population has exploded by fivefold since the 1980s, almost entirely because of tougher sentencing for nonviolent drug crimes. Most of these prison mothers are destined to see their sons and daughters rarely if ever until parole, when they can only hope, often in vain, that their young children won't shun them as strangers.

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Old 05-19-2006, 11:40 AM
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Wow--what an interesting article. Completely depressing yet totally exciting at the same time! Thanks for posting this, Megan!
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