Prisons Face Childbirth, Women’s High Health Costs


Shelby Mattson, 27, inmate No. 110116, recently became one of 50 women to deliver a child last year while in the custody of the Colorado Department of Corrections, reports the Denver Post. The total was 10 more than the year before.

The growth of the women’s prison population and the rise in the number of babies born to those inmates have prompted debate about how a system designed for men can be better molded to the needs of women and children.

The Post says that throughout her pregnancy, Mattson battled almost daily against both the prison bureaucracy and herself: “She recognized her mistakes, then repeated them. She wept for the fetus growing inside her but refused opportunities to ensure her future with the child.”

The newspaper tells “a story without heroes. There’s a woman with an addiction and a tendency toward self-destruction, a system designed to hold, not help, and a baby she once called Chance.”

Because of their medical needs, women cost more to treat in prison than men. In 2002, the average cost of care for a male inmate in Colorado was $76.36 per day, $27,873 a year. The average cost for a female was $88.54, or $32,318 per year. Some of those higher costs are the result of challenges unique to women, like having children.


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