Every year, at least 150 pregnant women are admitted to the Massachusetts state prison for women at Framingham, says the Boston Herald. In the last three years, 107 women have given birth while behind bars. A handful of them are rescued from drug abuse and crime with the help of the Spectrum Health Systems Women and Children's program. Though the women are prison inmates, the facility looks more like a college dorm, its purple and lavender walls adorned with Anne Geddes baby portraits. To be admitted, an inmate must be within 18 months of the end of her sentence or parole eligibility date and undergo a rigorous vetting. Infants up to 2 years old may live with their mothers while the women complete substance-abuse counseling, parenting and nurturing classes and search for housing and employment for after their release.
Beverly Parham, a grandmother of 10 and former Boston police officer, has led the program since February 2004. She brings her own redemption story to her work, having beaten a drug addiction that landed her on the wrong side of the law a decade ago. The program, in existence since 1990, has been criticized by some advocates for not being accessible enough to pregnant inmates. State Rep. Kay Khan says state officials “haven't increased it or enhanced it or promoted it.”