Pregnancy in Prison
Pregnancy in prison is a thing. Yes, it even happened in Orange is the New Black. Florida has one of the largest amounts of incarcerated women and many either come into prison pregnant or wind up that way due to conjugal visits or due to sex in prison. In 2009, it was estimated that at any given time there are 10,000 pregnant women are in jail or prison.
Jacksonville media reported today that Laura Barton, the mother of Lonzie Barton, is pregnant. As we handle cases of violations of civil rights and have a criminal defense team at our office (but will not be representing Ms. Barton under any circumstances), we took the time to look up the rights of pregnant inmates. The infant is never under the custody of the prison or jail, but the prison or jail must make certain concessions and provisions.
The taxpayers do. Under Florida law (944.24)(see below), “the charge for hospital and medical care shall be charged against the funds allocated to the institution. The department shall provide for the care of any child so born and shall pay for the child’s care until the child is suitably placed outside the prison system.”
Also reiterated in 951.175, “The charge for hospital and medical care shall be charged against the funds allocated to the detention facility.” And, “The county shall provide for the care of any child so born and shall pay for the child’s care until the child is suitably placed outside the prison system.”
An inmate has the right to regular prenatal care during the course of her pregnancy. Generally, this means that she should be seen by an obstetrician every month and more often as the pregnancy becomes later in term. Much like the non-inmate, sonograms, blood work, pelvic exams, or other tests or procedures that an OB/GYN feels necessary are warranted and must be provided.
It is common and pretty much requires that prenatal vitamins and a special diet is also issued. The Florida Department of Corrections actually mandates and extra meal. The inmate may also be given a pass preventing her from certain jobs, or allowing additional time to rest.
During a pregnancy, Florida law and DOC policy pretty seriously prohibit restraint. See below.
Although controversial, abortion is a right to someone pregnant in jail or prison. The 1976 Hyde Amendment restricts funding abortions for women in federal prisons, and many state prisons and local jails also refuse to fund abortions. So, although women still have the right to obtain the procedure, facilities may force women to pay for the costs of transportation and the guards’ time to take them to the clinic.
The mother is not able to keep the baby with her after she leaves the hospital when born. A form called, “Child Placement Plan for Newborn of Inmate” should be completed. The mother must make sure that she has set up a caregiver for her child in advance, and that the person is ready to come and pick the baby up at the hospital when he or she is born so as not to make the baby become a ward of the State.