Podcast | What it’s like raising a baby in a Washington prison

Reporters Amanda Snyder and Joseph O'Sullivan share the stories of three moms who live with their babies through the state's prison parenting program.

Paige Zorn plays with her boy Zaylin in the playroom of J-Unit at the Washington Corrections Center for Women

Paige Zorn plays with her boy Zaylin on the floor in the playroom of J-Unit at the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor on Thursday, July 6, 2023. To qualify for the program, individuals must be pregnant upon entering the facility, in minimum-custody and have committed neither violent crimes nor crimes against children. Their sentence must be less than 30 months from the due date. Zorn had Zaylin in early March, and she was set to be released in the fall. (Amanda Snyder/Crosscut)

The United States has seen a substantial increase in the incarceration rates of women over the past few decades. Some of them are entering the prison system pregnant.

Many of these women are forced to serve their sentences away from their children, but some states, including Washington, have tried to change that. 

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The Washington Corrections Center for Women has run the Residential Parenting Program for more than two decades, allowing women to raise their babies for up to 30 months while incarcerated. The program offers child care, parenting classes, educational opportunities and other support.  

Host Sara Bernard spoke with journalists Amanda Snyder and Joseph O’Sullivan about their reporting on three mothers in the program who shared what it’s like going to prison while pregnant, raising their babies in incarceration and preparing for life once they’re released. 

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