Babies Born, Raised Behind Bars May Keep Mothers From Returning to Prison


The cost for each baby is roughly $24,000 per year, but it's cheaper than the $30,000 per year that it costs if a mom, who didn't receive any support, ends up back in jail.

"If that woman stays out of jail for five years, think of [those] savings," Hamilton said. "It's keeping that child from the foster care system. That's another expensive program."

One study showed that 33 percent of moms who'd been separated from their babies wound up back in prison, compared to the under 10 percent of moms who were able to keep their babies and didn't return to prison.

At her parole board hearing, McDougall was able to secure an early release date and keep Max with her until then. But it doesn't always work out that way.

Joyce Browning was also an inmate at Bedford and gave birth to twins on the same day McDougall had Max. Browning wanted to raise the twins herself.

"It's just a feeling that you get when you are away from your kids," Browning told "Nightline."

Yet, when the twins were 4-months-old, Browning said she got into an argument with a prison guard on Christmas Eve, and her babies were sent home.

"Everything happened fast. They just came to my room...told me I had to pack up," Browning recalled. "It was very, very upsetting, very stressful. I would cry in my room."

Although Browning was lucky to have the babies' father step up, she said she spent every day in prison worrying about them.

"What are they doing? What's going on? Where are they? Who are they with now? Even though they were with family, it's just still that thought that runs through your mind. Are they safe?" Browning said.

Unlike Browning, McDougall and her son remained together until their day of freedom, on June 10, 2013. While McDougall eagerly awaited her release, she said she was nervous about finally being by herself with Max.

"Because here we don't have the choice really to do wrong. And out there, I have all the choices in the world. What do I want to eat today? Do I want to get high?" McDougall said.

Three months after walking out of Bedford, McDougall is staying at parents' home and has landed her first job. For the first time ever, she said, she is planning and saving for her future with Max in the equation.

"It was very hard the first month I think to really get a grasp on being sober and being home and what real life is going to be with me now with a child." McDougall said.

"I just hope one day he can learn from my mistakes and not go down the road that I chose. I really just want him to be able to make better decisions than I did."

Tune into the full story on ABC News' "Nightline" TONIGHT at 12:35 a.m. ET

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...