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Measuring the Health & Well-Being of Incarcerated Mothers


  • How many incarcerated people are pregnant or post-partum, and what are the health outcomes for them and their babies?
  • The Bureau of Justice Statistics contracted Abt to assess current practices and the feasibility of systematic data collection on the health and wellbeing of pregnant women in prison or jails.
  • Abt’s study offers solutions to collect these needed data to provide safe and equitable treatment for women and their babies.
The Challenge

There has been little research on women who are pregnant, give birth, or experience a pregnancy termination or loss while in prison or jail. Understanding the health and well-being of pregnant people who are incarcerated at the federal, state, and local levels is a national priority.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) collects ad-hoc information on the health and wellbeing of women in prisons and jails who report being pregnant at the time of admission. But systematic data collection on this special population does not yet exist.

To determine what data are available and the best way to collect them systematically, BJS contracted with Abt to examine current data and what gaps need to be filled to cover the breadth of maternal health needs of incarcerated pregnant and postpartum women.

The Approach

The Abt team conducted a multi-state study to learn how facilities manage and track maternal health and pregnancy outcomes, what data are available from these systems, and what technical and confidentiality issues would be involved with facilities providing data to BJS.

The Results

Findings from the study suggest that BJS could succeed in collecting these critical data on the prevalence of pregnant women in prison, jails and other correctional facilities and their associated health outcomes. Data could be collected in timely ways and could help administrators and policymakers understand and address the maternal health needs of incarcerated women.

These results will help BJS determine which data prison systems and local jails, could feasibly provide and recommendations to facilitate data collection.


Data on Maternal Health and Pregnancy Outcomes from Prisons and Jails: Results from a Feasibility Study

Our Experts

Jennifer Bronson, Ph.D.

Jennifer Bronson, Ph.D.

Principal Associate


Vanessa Masick

Vanessa Masick

Hannah Ableman

Hannah Ableman

Associate Analyst