A look at a mother and baby unit in a California prison facility examining how society deals with female offenders who are pregnant or have pre-school children.
Read the full transcript »
Frances Valenzuela: This facility is called the Family Foundations Program. It's a 12 months intensive, imprisoned, substance abuse treatment program for female offenders and their children under the age of 6. Most of them, well, all of them are drug addicts or alcoholics and have been involved in a criminal justice system, have a felony conviction, have been sentenced to stay in prison. Many of them are pregnant, so they come here to avoid, I guess, in certain regards to going to prison, the actual prison with behind the walls and this also gives them an opportunity to change. Irene Lofft: It's such a relief like when I got sentenced, they told me I had 16 months and like I saw that I would have to do without my son and that was just like heartbroken that he would have to go through that whole time without me. Then it was just I couldn't believe that the Judge suggested this place that I get to spend my time here with him and learn a lot of stuff. Elizabeth Martinez: I had him here at Presbyterian Hospital which is down the street and had him with me ever since. The alternative was going to prison and have him there and I would be escorted to the hospital and I would be chained -- my ankles would be chained to the bad. So I couldn't move or leave or anything. He would have been taken away two days later and if nobody would have picked him up within 24 hours, they would have put him in the system. Lynette Andress: She is not in the system, she was not involved in the system, my other kids were. They were, in fact, taken from me at birth. This is like my first child that I ever got to bring home from the hospital and just be with. So this is my first time being a mother out of eight times. Frances Valenzuela: The alternative to women being here is that they go to prison, they're separated from their child for up to three years, a three-year term is the maximum they can serve here. The child then could possibly go into foster care or the child can be placed with a relative, who may or may not have the financial resources, the interest in raising the child, the time or energy; often they're elderly parents who are not able to handle a small child. Lynette Andress: The benefits of being here is I get to learn how to live, clean and sober, and I get to learn how to be a better mom. Elizabeth Martinez: I was three months pregnant when I first got here. I'm leaving the end of this month. I have learned a lot in this last year. In a short amount of time I've learned a lot and I want to change my life around now.