In April, a story I wrote for The Boston Globe about women who give birth while incarcerated first introduced me to other options for non-violent offenders to serve their sentences. We’ve all heard of halfway houses but often associate them only with post-incarceration, where someone lives for a certain amount of time directly after release to re-establish ties with the community. While that use is still true, there are people in certain situations, such as pregnant women and mothers (who are often the primary caregivers), who can be good candidates for alternative, live-in sentencing programs that monitor them, assist in job placement, and offer counseling. The goal is the same—to get them back into the community armed with the tools to begin working and taking care of their families on their own.
Obviously being pregnant while in jail or prison is far from an ideal. Through my reporting, I learned that jails do try to place women out who are pregnant but the women must meet certain qualifications first, such as health and classification statuses. In such programs, women live, work, receive child care, and get substance abuse counseling. However, there are only a handful of programs like this that exist in Massachusetts, but women are going to jail who are pregnant every week. I hope to investigate some of the community-based and alternatives to incarceration programs geared toward women. I’d like to highlight how they work and find out what the future holds for such programs.