Pregnant people in North Carolina are routinely held in jails and prisons when they are too poor to pay for their freedom when arrested. These individuals have NOT been convicted of a crime, but are often incarcerated far away from their families and children because they do not have the financial resources to pay their bail. In December 2019, members from the North Carolina Perinatal Health and Incarceration Working Group met to discuss the need for a specific bail fund for pregnant persons in North Carolina who are being held pretrial. In March 2020 this fund was launched! This fund was created under the leadership of Kristie Puckett Williams from the ACLU of NC and Andréa “Muffin” Hudson from the North Carolina Community Bail Fund of Durham. The Jordan Institute for Families is a founding member of the larger working group.
According to the Bureau of Justice, 3% to 4% of women are pregnant when they arrive at a prison—and we can assume that the figure is the same if not higher for female arrestees arriving at a jail since women incarcerated in the U.S. are disproportionately in jails rather than prisons. Over the past quarter century, there has been a profound change in the involvement of women within the criminal justice system. Between 1980 and 2017, the number of incarcerated women increased by more than 750%, rising from a total of 26,378 in 1980 to 225,060 in 2017.
Being arrested for a crime can be a traumatic experience, and if you are pregnant at the time of your arrest, the added stress can pose risks to your health and to your pregnancy. Even a short jail stay can be devastating for a pregnant person, especially when it separates them from children who depend on her. Pregnant persons being held pretrial often encounter the needlessly brutal side effects of being incarcerated, which includes the aggravation of mental health illnesses, higher risk of suicide, increased housing and financial challenges. It is critical to recognize that when pregnant persons are held in jails and prisons, they face potentially irreparable damage to themselves, their developing fetus, and their families all because they cannot front the expenses to post bail.
The North Carolina Community Bail Fund is working to interrupt and disrupt this practice by bringing people home and back into their communities. There are three steps to these efforts. First, the North Carolina Community Bail Fund posts low-cost bail for people who could otherwise not afford it. Second, individuals return to their homes, jobs, and communities, in turn giving them a more equitable case procedure. Lastly, upon court appearance and/or case resolution, the bail is then returned to the fund to help others in need.
The Perinatal Health and Incarceration Working Group has also been busy during the time of Covid-19 in communicating with Commissioner Ishee who is in charge of the NC Women’s prison around release for pregnant/postpartum people with low offenses as well as improved safety, nutrition and conditions for those who must remain incarcerated during this time. The work group has partnered on legislation that promotes other issues such as nutrition, shackling, and birth justice issues.
Help support this important work!
Donate: https://www.nccbailfund.org/donate Include the word “Pregnancy” in the Comment/Memo
Share: Let others in your circle know about this fund!
•Use the above graphic, which provides instructions on how to donate.
•If people mail in a check, they will need to make sure they indicate on the memo line “PREGNANCY.” If not, it will go to the NC Community Bail Fund, which is not a bad thing!
•You can post the above image with one of the following suggested messages:
Pregnant people in North Carolina are routinely held in jails and prisons when they are too poor to pay for their freedom when arrested. They have been convicted of NO crime, but are often incarcerated far away from their families and children because they do not have bail money. The NC Community Bail Fund is working to interrupt and disrupt this shameful practice by bringing people home and back into their communities. Use the link below to donate and put “PREGNANCY” in the comments. https://nccbailfund.org/donate
Pregnant people who are too poor to pay for their freedom are routinely held in prison for months before they are tried. Join me in supporting the NC Community Bail Fund – put “Pregnancy” in the comments at https://nccbailfund.org/donate
UPDATE! As of April 13th almost 2/3rds of pregnant people who were in jail or prison have been released. New strategies to protect those still incarcerated are being put in place.