Pregnant and Imprisoned

My name is Ashley. My probation officer violated me and had me sent to jail for three months. I was four months pregnant at the time. When I got to the jail, I told them I was pregnant, and they had me see a nurse practitioner right away who set up an appointment for an OBGYN the following week.

The guards assigned me to a bottom bunk. In most cases the new person has to take the top but because of the pregnancy they made sure I got a bottom bunk. I was also signed up for the “pregnancy diet,” meaning I got more food than non-pregnant inmates, and I received lots of milk every day.

Other inmates were very nice to me, making sure I had enough to eat and keeping the troublemakers away from me. My cellmate wasn’t happy about giving up the bottom bunk for me, but she didn’t take it out on me.

The other inmates loved feeling the baby kick. In most cases, inmates don’t touch each other physically. If they do so without permission, they will probably get beat. But because I was pregnant, I let them feel the baby kick and we spent hours and hours talking about possible names. The inmates who had children on the outside talked to me about what the first few months as a new mother would be like and they gave me the names of lots of places to call for help with diapers, baby clothes and baby furniture.

What about other medical treatments in jail and prison?

I did have one scare. I felt like I was going into labor early. The other inmates called for the guards, and the guards didn’t take it seriously. They ignored me. Some of the other inmates got their attention again by causing a ruckus, pretending to fight, making a lot of noise, and when all the guards came running, including a Lieutenant, the inmates demanded that I see medical. I got taken to medical and the nurse practitioner had me go to an OBGYN outside the jail, but it turned out to be Braxton Hicks (practice contractions) and I was fine.

It did remind me how different it is in jail when something happens and you need a doctor. Sometimes the guards listen, sometimes they don’t.

Letters are a big deal in jail. When the guard comes in for mail call, everyone lines up. I got a letter every day from my mom and one from my fiancé. If you ever know anyone who goes to jail, please write or send postcards at least once a week. The sadness on the faces of the girls who never got mail during mail call was heartbreaking. One time, my letter didn’t get to me because my mom put some glitter stars in it. Apparently, that is not allowed in jail mail, so they sent it back to her and gave me a note saying why the letter was sent back before I could see it.

The feelings that came up when I was in jail were hard. Nobody is raised with the goal of being an inmate. I had to work at keeping my spirits up and my self-confidence in place. My mom told me at a visit not to let being in jail define who I am. She reminded me that I was on the honor roll in school, that I am a good friend to people I hang out with, and that I have goals and ambitions. It helped. I spent a lot of time writing in a journal about being in jail and the decisions I made that put me there. I am going to read it once or twice a year so I remember what it was like and how making wrong choices could cause it again.

Video: National Geographic documentary about pregnant incarcerated women

I still write to one of the inmates I was in jail with. I am off probation so I can’t get in trouble for it now. She got sent to prison for five years and I write to her once a week. I have also talked to her mom and her kids on the phone.

Jail is not a good place to be, but this jail did make sure I had plenty of prenatal care, vitamins, and good food during my stay. The jail had a library so I got books on pregnancy and spent my time reading. Somehow I endured.

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writes about inmates, jails, prisons, courts and the lives of people who live and work within the United States Criminal Justice System. His mission can be summed up in a single word; transparency.