Until now, there have been no systematic data on how many pregnant people are behind bars in the U.S. or what happens to those pregnancies. The PIPS project collected these data for 1 year from 22 state prison systems, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, 6 jails and 3 juvenile justice systems.
We collected data on how many pregnant people were in custody, how the pregnancies ended, maternal and newborn deaths, substance use disorder and mental illness, medical co-morbidities, breastfeeding, and others. Various data outcomes will be shared on our site as they are published.
This first-ever systematic study of pregnancy outcomes from carceral institutions in the U.S. is a piece of a larger strategy, we hope, of health care improvements and policy reform for this often overlooked group of people.
Source: Sufrin et. al. 2019 American Journal of Public Health
In the 22 state prison systems and all federal prisons that participated in PIPS, there were nearly 1400 pregnant people admitted during 1 year. Most of these pregnancies ended in live births. About 4% of admitted females were pregnant. If we extrapolate this % to national estimates, this would mean close to 3,000 admissions of pregnant people to state and federal prisons each year. See full report of prison results here.
At the 6 study jails, there were over 1600 admissions of pregnant people in 1 year, 3% of admissions. Based on the estimated 1.8 million arrests of females each year, this amounts to nearly 55,000 admissions of pregnant people to U.S. jails each year. While some of these admissions may be of the same people who get arrested and released more than once in their pregnancy, this is nonetheless a large number of people who will need pregnancy care. Jail results will be published soon in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology.
PIPS data on opioid use disorder (OUD) in pregnancy show that 26% of pregnant people in prisons and 14% of those in jails have OUD. While the medical standard of care is for pregnant people to avoid withdrawal, 1/3 of pregnant people with OUD at PIPS sites were managed with withdrawal. See full OUD results here.
Why are pregnancy data from prisons and jails important?
At year-end 2017 there were over 225,000 women in prisons and jails. Most incarcerated women are of reproductive age, the majority have children, and they are often the primary caretaker of their children. Some enter prison and jail pregnant, often first learning of the pregnancy upon intake. Incarcerated pregnant people have unique needs and present unique challenges for correctional systems and health systems alike. Despite the continued increase in the number of incarcerated women, little is known about how many are pregnant, have abortions, miscarriages or give birth while in custody.
It is critical to have accurate, current vital statistics for these marginalized people, as their reproductive health has far-reaching consequences for women, their families, and society.
Pregnancy in Prison Statistics (PIPS) project is beginning to answer the questions of how many pregnant people are incarcerated in the United States, how are they being cared for, what are their pregnancy outcomes, and what choices are available to them as they plan a future for themselves and their children.
The PIPS project is a multi-sector collaborative endeavor based out of Johns Hopkins to gather national scale statistics on pregnancy outcomes for people who are pregnant while incarcerated. Twenty-two state prison systems, six jails (including the 5 five largest), and three departments of juvenile justice reported to our study database on a monthly basis the number of pregnant people, births, miscarriages, abortions, stillbirths, and other pregnancy outcomes. Findings from PIPS will illuminate the scope of the issues facing incarcerated pregnant people and will enable policymakers, correctional administrators, researchers, and others who care about improving services for incarcerated people optimize outcomes for these people and their families.