Reality T.V.
Reality T.V.

Reality T.V.

Babies behind bars:

I usually do not watch reality TV. A few weeks ago I was going through the TV. guide and I happened to catch this TV. show. I started watching the show called “Born Behind Bars” on A&E.  I started watching it and was like, what is this? Why are there babies in prison with their moms? I started at the beginning of the series and watched the whole first series.  I have been sitting on this blog for a few weeks now because I wasn’t sure how I wanted to write this blog. I’m still not sure,  I think this will be controversial in many ways.

Women in Prisons:

Currently, there are roughly 190,000 women incarcerated. There are 446 state prisons, 27 federal prisons, 3116 local jails, 1323 juvenile and 80 Indian county jails, 80 immigration detention centers and military facilities, and prisons in the US territories that house these women. Crimes committed are murder, drugs, theft, robbery, sexual assault, and other crimes.

Baby Programs:

Eight states allow women to have their babies with them in prison. Washington, Illinois, Indiana, New York, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, and West Virginia have the ” Mom and Baby Program” or “Nursery Program”.   Each state has its guidelines and rules for the program, however, there are some similarities in the regulations and guidelines. the reason for the baby program is the same in all eight states. One common goal is mother-child bonding.image.png

The Rules:

The rules are very simple. Are they really that simple? One infraction, one disrespectful comment, one outburst, and your baby is sent out home or to foster care.  Is this realistic?  Your baby is used as an incentive to do the right thing. You have to follow the rules, participate in programs, go to your job, get released, and take your baby home. If your baby is born with medical issues your baby can not go to this unit. The baby is sent home to family members or foster care.

What are the qualifications?

The woman must be pregnant at the time that she is booked and sent to prison. They must have 12-18 months left on their sentence. Except one prison will allow them to have up to 30 months left on their sentence. No violent crimes at all, most of these are here for drug offenses. The women must have at least an 8th-grade education and must pass a medical and mental health exam. Once they pass these requirements they will be allowed to be moved into the ward of the prison. For some of these women, this isn’t their first child. Some of these women have had four or five children, and all of them have been placed with family or in foster care.

The Baby Unit:

The baby unit only allows 7-10 babies depending on which prison you’re in. Each prison is staffed with two state employees who are certified in infant development administration, one child development aid, one correctional officer and nannies. The nannies are inmates that have to pass a screening process to be a nanny if they aren’t a mom in the program. Some of them were a mom who had their baby removed. Other’s are a mom  currently in the program.  This is a tightly managed environment.

The Nursery/ baby unit:

If you were to walk in the nursery,  you would think it was a daycare. It is colorful, there are shelves with toys, high chairs, tables, chairs, rugs with pictures, play areas and everything a baby needs. Inside their cells are the baby’s crib, clothes, diapers, bottles, etc.Nannies care for the babies, while moms are working.  Mom is responsible for feeding, bathing, changing and daily care of their babies when they aren’t working.


There is a small playground outside. Babies do not get  to spend much time outside due to shortage of staffing. The babies do go to doctor appointments. Their moms are not allowed to take them to the doctor appointments, the babies go with one of infant development administrators. Other  times the babies are always in the unit.


Everything  a baby needs comes from donations.  The moms are only allowed to have enough clothing for about week or two. When their baby out grows the clothing, the mom goes and exchanges the clothing. Not much is allowed to be kept in the cells. The cells must be kept cleaned and organized.   How is having donations in prison going to help these women when they are released? Having a baby is extremely expensive.

Above are all the facts:

All the facts are true, however here are my arguments for why there shouldn’t be babies in prison. My arguments are fact based as well. Prison is a very stressful environment. Prison is not a realistic situation to raise child. I fully agree that a mother and child should bond. Those first months of bonding are so important in child development. However, when a child has had time to bond with their mother and then is removed from their mother over one infraction, that causes so many issues for baby as well as the mother.


When you remove a baby from the mother even for a few hours it’s very stressful for a baby and young child because the cortisol(a stress hormone ) on the brain floods the brain and begins to damage brain cells. Additionally the over activation of the amygdala the portion of the brain that is responsible for fight-flight instincts. Removing a child at an older age (toddler) will feel abandonment and PTSD.  An infant’s brain is to young to process PTSD, however it can process separation anxiety. The mom will feel separation anxiety, depression, possibly suicidial, and will go back to what she knows. In prison it is very easy to get drugs and start using again, This is called permanent architectural changes in the brain.

Emotional Trauma:

Emotional Trauma can cause Reactive Attachment(RAD), dysregulation stress response, and severe behavioral problems. I have worked with these children for over 35 years. It is a tough job. These children do not have an attachment to anyone or anything. Imagine a child who doesn’t have a favorite stuff animal or toy. If they live in foster care they will ask if they are going to new home often, and not even blink an eye. They can sit on a bed for hours and entertain themselves by talking to themselves because they don’t have anything that means that much to them. Nothing! It’s incredibly sad. Behaviorally they are super strong and will physically attack you anytime, anywhere and for hours.

Drug addicted Babies:

In the US there are roughly 20,000 babies born a year. These babies suffer from Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) a type of Opiate withdrawal. These babies go through withdrawals as if they had taken the drugs themselves. It’s very painful and leaves lasting effects.  Babies can have brain damage, low weight, behavioral health issues, behavioral problems, motor abnormalities, effects of the nervous systems, heart disease and so many other problems. I have worked with children as well. Some of them will work in grocery stores, can live an apartment with 24/7 supports for the rest of their lives. Others  will need 24/7 personal care and will need to be taken care of for the rest of their life.


Mild symptoms:

Then you have the babies who were only mildly effected by the drugs. These babies grow up and have behavioral problems, get into trouble with law, suicide attempts, problems with drugs, alcohol and gambling. lower IQ but can function on their own. Can’t hold down a job for long periods of time. Attachment isn’t really there, feeling of abandonment, behavioral health issues like bipolar are issues they have. Prison becomes home for many of them.

Foster care:

Children in foster care are 2-3 times higher likely to suffer from depression, suicidal attempts, have problems with drugs, alcohol and gambling.  These children tend to have 2 times higher  disabilities and developmental delays, 6 times higher behavioral health issues. As adults they are most likely to have substance- related disorders, psychotic or bipolar disorders anxiety disorders. Have 2-3 times higher pregnancy rates, younger sexual activities, and more easily trafficked.   Foster care children tend to have more health issues, do not have their immunizations, do not have routine health care check ups. The rate of PTSD in these children is twice as high as a war veteran.  These children are not able to form an attachment with a reliable and consistent caregiver.

The foster care system needs improvement. There are thousands of children sitting there waiting to be adopted. It is very difficult to place older children and children with disabilities in their forever homes. You have some good homes with loving foster parents. Then, have those not so good homes where the parents are only doing it for the money. There are the special parents who will take the special needs children, but those are difficult to come by.


Out in the real world you would not have your child removed from your home for one infraction. Department of Child Safety does not come take your child away the first time you make a mistake. However, you deliver a baby that is addicted to drugs your baby is removed from you at that moment.  Do I think that the prison should remove your baby over one infraction? No I do not.  You take a piece of food off of a tray that was going to be thrown out, or you yell out of frustration or argue with another inmate. No I do not think that your child should be removed for those reasons. That is not real life.

Do I think it is unrealistic to have these babies in prison? Yes. These moms can not afford to take care of their babies. They rely on donations while incarcerated. Who is going to pay for their babies when they are released? Babies are expensive. These moms rely on nannies while they go to their job in prison, they are free. Who is going to pay for a nanny or daycare when they are released? States are cutting back on services, getting state assistance for daycare may not be an option.

When it comes to responsibilities of the babies, it is a “whole village” type of scenario to raise these babies. These moms are not allowed to go to the doctor appointments, buy their necessities and these babies are bonding with more than just their mom. The prison doesn’t give these women the essential and functional tools they need to survive in today’s society. It’s not just these women, it’s all prisons.

One of my biggest arguments is allowing a mom who’s baby was removed to be a nanny. That is extremely difficult and detrimental to that mom. How is this allowed? Why is this allowed? The emotional trauma to that woman has to be unbearable. You just took her baby away for something that she did wrong, then turn around and say to her” oh here you can stay on this unit and be a nanny to other babies”. This is not ok at all.

I do not agree with using a child as an incentive to do the right thing. No matter where you are, baby or no baby you have to find it within yourself to do the right thing. Make the changes you need to do to keep your baby and make a better life for yourself. In the real world or in prison your baby can be removed by the choices you make. Prison just makes that happen faster.

The truth is many of these women end up losing their babies after they are released. They go back to what they know and return to prison on new charges. Their babies go to families members or foster care. Sad ending for the baby. The bond is broken and the baby has a difficult time bonding with someone else who isn’t their mom.

I appreciate all your positive comments. I do reply so check the comments. Oh I’m interested in knowing how I have helped some of you and what courses you’re taking that you’re sharing my information. So please if you can let me know.

If you have a story or know someone who does that would like me write about please email me. Until next time.

Ref:   A&E Reality TV SHOW



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