Date of Award

Spring 6-13-2021

Document Type

Honors Project

University Scholars Director

Dr. Christine Chaney

First Advisor/Committee Member

Dr. David Diekema

Second Advisor/Committee Member

Dr. Karen Snedker


Pregnancy, female inmates, doulas, prison, evidence-based corrections, Goffman


The unprecedented rise in the US incarceration rate is well-documented. However, research into the historic increase in the prison population largely focuses on male prisoners. The dramatic increase in the rate of incarcerated females is often overlooked. This omission is important because women face unique challenges while incarcerated. One of the gendered differences, which affects women, physically and mentally, is pregnancy. This paper examines the current data available on the prevalence of pregnancy amongst female inmates, and data gaps and limitations. Pregnancy is distinctively difficult for incarcerated women as they navigate the stressors of the prison environment while receiving minimal prenatal care. Relying on Goffman’s framing of prisons as “total institutions” and Sykes’ “pains of imprisonment”, I explore how prison experiences are gendered. I also examine current evidence-based reforms such as anti-shackling laws, doula programs, and prison nurseries. In addition to the implications of the current state of prenatal and postpartum care on the inmates themselves, this paper also explores the consequences for their children. Recommendations are made to increase data acquisition, expand prenatal care in prisons, and reinforce the inmates’ identities as mothers to support reintegration to society after release.


A project submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the University Scholars Honors Program.

Additional Rights Information

Copyright held by author.


Copyright Status