Please upgrade your browser for the best Refinery29 experience. Read more.

Saved! Access Favorites in your account profile. Removed from my favorites

21 Photos Show A Completely Different Side Of Mothers In Prison

  1. Begin
    Opener1_120015_PrisonNursery
    Photo: Cheryl Hanna-Truscott

    SHARE IT

    comments
    See All Slides
    This article was first published on December 16, 2015

    What happens to women who are pregnant in prison? Where do they give birth? What happens to their babies? Orange Is the New Black offered one version, but in reality the answers to these questions can vary widely depending on where a woman is serving her sentence. For some women at the Washington Correctional Centre for Women in Gig Harbor, Washington, it's simple: They get to stay with their children.

    "Women are generally the primary caretakers of children and families, and women get pregnant," Cheryl Hanna-Truscott told Refinery29. Hanna-Truscott has spent more than a decade photographing members of the Residential Parenting Programme for her project Protective Custody. "Pregnant inmates have specific needs based on the recognition that at least two people — both mother and baby — are vitally affected."

    Hanna-Truscott has been a photographer since she was a child, but as an adult she's spent years working as a midwife and evaluating cases of possible child sexual abuse. Hanna-Truscott's background in women's health and child development is what interested her in a programme that took the welfare of women and children so seriously in such an inhumane setting.

    Twelve years of working in the penitentiary has made it easy for her to develop a rapport with the women in WCCW's prison nursery. "The mothers are very eager to have their picture taken — and I never press for personal information — but there’s just so much kind of sharing that seems to come out in a safe outlet. Some share what they’re going through."

    Hanna-Truscott does other projects in her work as a photographer, but Protective Custody has been a window into how much the U.S. needs to change. According to a report from the Prison Policy Initiative, only 5% of the world's women live in The United States, but the U.S. accounts for nearly 30% of the world's incarcerated women. "About a decade ago, there were about 14 prison nursery programmes, and I don’t know how many there are now, but I don’t think the concept has grown exponentially like I thought it might," she said.

    The photos in this series provide a look inside one prison ward, into the lives of women trying to do the best for their families under difficult circumstances.

    Go here for more information into Cheryl Hanna-Truscott's work.





    Begin Slideshow
  2. Photo: Cheryl Hanna-Truscott

    SHARE IT

    comments
    See All Slides
    0 of 21
    }

    "In the mid-1990s, I heard about the beginnings of this nursery idea through the grapevine, and I only live 10 minutes away from the state prison," Hanna-Truscott told Refinery29 about how she found this project. "In about 2003, I asked if I could do a photography project on the prison nursery, and I was welcomed in….I wanted to do it for a year before I had the courage to send a letter and ask for permission."

    Strolling with baby in the minimum security yard.

  3. Photo: Cheryl Hanna-Truscott

    SHARE IT

    comments
    See All Slides
    1 of 21
    }

    Despite the successes of the programme at Washington Corrections Centre, Hanna-Truscott says she still encounters skepticism. "With all the research that has been done supporting concepts relating to prison nurseries, people still make harsh judgments," she told Refinery29. "They’ll say, 'Babies don’t belong in prisons,' just point-blank. But, no. Babies belong with their mothers, in a safe, protective environment. So I think some people miss the point, and they just hear the notion of this, of 'babies in prisons.'"

    Mandi and Gabriel (3 days old).

  4. Photo: Cheryl Hanna-Truscott

    SHARE IT

    comments
    See All Slides
    2 of 21
    }

    "Prison systems have sort of been built around the incarceration of men, and, typically, women are the caretakers of the family," she said. Women are the fastest-growing part of the U.S. prison population. "The explosion of the number of women that are becoming incarcerated is having a huge effect on pregnant women and families."

    Samantha and Gabriel (1 year old).

  5. Photo: Cheryl Hanna-Truscott

    SHARE IT

    comments
    See All Slides
    3 of 21
    }

    "Even though my project is pretty much limited to pregnant women and mothers of the toddlers, it’s a select population that I feel like really important things are happening at this critical time of development — for babies, especially," Hanna-Truscott said.

    Stacy (38 weeks' pregnant).

  6. Photo: Cheryl Hanna-Truscott

    SHARE IT

    comments
    See All Slides
    4 of 21
    }

    "Babies don’t know they’re in prison," she added. "They just know they’re safe and secure in a loving environment with their mothers."

    Osha (seven months' pregnant with twins).