Mothering While You Are Incarcerated

The Roadmap to Reentry guide is focused on identifying and navigating barriers for people in reentry from prison or jail—not on issues faced during your incarceration. But because mothering and pregnancy while incarcerated are such important topics, and can later impact your rights as a parent in reentry, this chapter and appendix provide a brief overview of some key questions you may have if you give birth while you are incarcerated. If you need more information, we recommend checking out the free resources referenced at the end of this Appendix.

Being a New Mother While Incarcerated

Is there any way I can stay with my child after I give birth?

Yes, but that chance is very slim. California has six very small mother-infant prison facilities. There are three facilities known as “Family Foundations” and you can only go there if you are sent by your sentencing judge.[2655]

The other program is the Community Prison Mother Program. There are also three of these facilities are located in Oakland (Project Pride), Pomona (Prototypes), and Bakersfield (Turning Point).[2656] Women are transferred here after they have given birth, applied to the program, and were accepted.

My sentencing judge recommended the Family Foundations program. What is it? What will happen?

The Family Foundations Program (FFP) is an alternative sentencing program. To begin the process, it is best if your attorney or the court contact the Women and Children’s Services unit so that you may be prescreened for the program to determine if you are eligible and so you can be placed on the waiting list. At sentencing, the judge must recommend you for the program.[2657] If you meet the criteria for the program, you will go directly to the FFP location. If you aren’t screened until after you are sentenced, you will go first to prison and then later be transported to a FFP location.[2658] If you have another child and or you give labor prior to going to FFP, your child must be brought to FFP in order for you to stay. If your child isn’t brought to FFP, you will be sent back to state prison. While enrolled in the FFP, you will receive prenatal care, parenting classes and access to prenatal vitamins.[2659]

Who is eligible to go to Family Foundations Program?

To go to FFP, you must be[2660]

    A woman pregnant or have one or more children under age six at the time of entry,
    Be sentenced to 36 months state prison or less, and have an established history of substance abuse.
Who is not eligible for Family Foundations Program?

By statute, you cannot go to FFP if you

Have a prior prison term for, or a current conviction of, any of the so-called “serious” offenses listed in Penal Code section 1174.4(a)(2)

If a woman’s child is under the jurisdiction of the juvenile dependency court, and Child protective Services objects[2661]

Other CDCR publications include more requirements. For example, a mother must not have an immigration or “potential or active Felony hold”, “must have primary custody of her child or children,” and sets a two-child limit.[2662]

How do I get into the Community Prison Mother Program?

After you give birth, you will receive notice of and a written application for the Community Prison Mother Program (CPMP).[2663] If you arrive at state prison and you are already a mother, you should be informed of the CPMP.[2664] If you meet the requirements, your facility will declare you “eligible” to participate.[2665] To take part in the program, you must apply and this process can take anywhere from a few months to over a year. But applying DOES NOT mean that you will be accepted. If you are denied, you will receive notice that you were denied and instructions to appeal.[2666]

Who is eligible for CPMP?

To be eligible for the Community Prison Mothering Program, a woman must

have one or more biological children under age six when received by or committed to state prison;

be the primary caretaker of the children before incarceration, AND

not been found to be an unfit parent. Or she can be pregnant or have given birth while under CDCR jurisdiction. She must be sentenced to a maximum of six years (after deduction of goodtime credit).

What can stop me from being eligible for CPMP?

There are several things that can stop you from being eligible for CPMP.[2667] For example, if you were convicted or pled guilty to certain sex or drug offenses you will not be eligible for CPMP.[2668] You may also be excluded if you have an older child.[2669]

How do I know if the CPMP is best for me?

Deciding what is best for you and your unborn child is difficult challenge. The best way to decide if the CPMP is best or finding a guardian can only be done with research and asking questions.

I am currently pregnant and in jail. Will my child be taken away from me?

Yes. Unfortunately, you cannot return to your facility (whether it is a state or federal run facility) with a baby. Instead, it is important to make a placement plan for your child to make sure that he or she is cared for and to reunify in the future.

What rights do I have to make sure that my child goes to a good home while I’m incarcerated?

As a mother, you have the right to make arrangements for the care of your child, and it is important that you do so before you give birth.[2670]

Here is a summary of 3 ways in which you can make arrangements for your child after birth:

    You may release your child to a blood relative like or a blood relative’s spouse even if the marriage ended by death or divorce;
    You may place your child with a non-relative whom you consider an extended family member;
    You may permanently release your child by giving up your parental rights.
What is the process for creating a placement plan? Will my facility or hospital help?

You should receive information from both your facility and the facility’s medical staff regarding a placement plan for your child.

  1. 2655 p.1

  2. 2656 p.1

  3. 2657

    Cal. Penal Code §1174.

  4. 2658

    Cal. Penal Code §1174.

  5. 2659

    Cal. Penal Code §1174.

  6. 2660

    Statutory eligibility requirements for the Family Foundations Program are found in California Penal Code section 1174.4

  7. 2661

    Cal. Penal Code §1174.4(b)(4).

  8. 2662

    8 Undated information sheet entitled “The Family Foundations Program, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, A New Chance for Inmate Mothers”.

  9. 2663

    Cal. Penal Code §3417, 54045.20 Community Treatment Programs State of California Department of Corrections Operation Manual, Article 45 — Care, Treatment, & Security of Pregnant Offenders,

  10. 2664

    Cal. Penal Code §3412; See Cal. Penal Code §3417

  11. 2665

    54045.20 Community Treatment Programs, State of California Department of Corrections Operation Manual, Article 45 — Care, Treatment, & Security of Pregnant Offenders,

  12. 2666

    Cal. Penal Code §§ 3412-3424.

  13. 2667

    For the complete list of eligibility requirements, please visit

  14. 2668

    Cal. Penal Code § 3417 et seq. If you were convicted of certain sex or drug offenses, unless there were “mitigating circumstances”, if you pose a “probability of absconding”, “engaging in other conduct adverse to herself or to other participants”, or “posing an unreasonable risk to the public.” Other crimes that can make you ineligible for CPMP as defined under the California Penal Code include: murder, mayhem, aggravated mayhem, kidnapping, lewd acts on a child under the age of 14, any felony that inflicts great bodily injury on a person other than accomplices, forcible rape, sodomy, child abuse, oral copulation.

  15. 2669

    Cal. Penal Code § 3417 et seq.

  16. 2670

    Child Born to Mother Incarcerated/Hospitalized in a State Institution, CWDA Protocol, Revised by CWDA Children’s Committee 2/2011,