Doctoral student, Crystal Hayes, will conduct a pilot study using focus groups to better understand the birthing experiences of incarcerated women in Massachusetts. The study will identify the most important issues for the Prison Birth Project’s anti-shackling advocacy campaign in Massachusetts and the impact the organization has on the actual birthing experiences of women and girls of color.
Incarceration rates in the United States have soared by 500% in the past 40 years, with women as the fastest group of newly incarcerated people (The Sentencing Project, 2015). The United States is excessively incarcerating women, with less than 5% of the world’s female population, yet 33% of the world’s incarcerated women (Correctional Association of New York, 2015). However, the vast majority of those women are disproportionately poor, working-class women of color, under 50 years old, and at the peak of their reproductive years (Guerino, Harrison, & Sabol, 2011; The Sentencing Project, 2015). Moreover, nearly 25% of incarcerated women are pregnant or have recently given birth at the time of arrest (Correctional Association of New York, 2015). This substantial increase of incarcerated women is an urgent issue with major implications for prison reform policies regarding women’s reproductive healthcare needs.
In 2015, the University of Connecticut became a partner institution in the White House Collaborative to Advance Equity through Research on Women and Girls of Color. UConn has committed to broadening knowledge in these areas through supporting research on women and girls of color. Crystal’s project, Are All Mothers Created Equal: Race, Birth Behind Bars, & The Anti-Shackling Movement in Massachusetts, will address the research deficit. She is receiving $2000 for the 2016-2017 academic year from UConn through the White House Collaborative program.