The Switch Up — Black maternal mortality crisis: Birth behind bars


In our last episode, we explored how the maternal mortality crisis disproportionately affects Black birthing people and other women of color. These disparities persist — and in some cases may be worse — when we look at the incarcerated population.  

In 2021, Black women were imprisoned at 1.6 times the rate of white women, and women who identify as Hispanic or Latina were imprisoned at 1.3 times the rate of white women, according to a 2023 report by The Sentencing Project, a nonprofit dedicated to criminal justice reform.  

Every year, about 58,000 pregnant people enter prisons and jails. A study by the Pregnancy in Prison Statistics Project found that nationally, 4 percent of women entering prison and 3 percent of women entering jail are pregnant. 

In part two our dive into the Black maternal mortality crisis, The Switch Up examined the health care of incarcerated pregnant people, including the practice of shackling and the devastating outcomes.

Some questions remain: Are other options available? And if so, how do we implement new plans to end maternal and fetal deaths in prison?

Listen above.

Editor’s Note: This episode includes discussions of incarceration, pregnancy loss, bleeding and medical negligence. Please consider this when deciding if and where you will listen. 

The Switch Up podcast series — hosted by The Hill’s Cheyanne M. Daniels — explores the intersection of race and politics through intimate conversations with leading scholars, advocates and legislators from communities of color. Follow The Switch Up on Spotify.

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