Updated: Thursday, 03 Nov 2011, 9:54 AM EDT
Published : Tuesday, 01 Nov 2011, 7:20 PM EDT
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WTHI) - Hundreds of pregnant women serve time in an Indiana prison every year but what happens to the baby after it's born?
One prison believes it has a solution.
Three-month-old baby MacKenna's nursery is anything but typical. MacKenna's home is inside Dorm 7 at the Indiana Women's Prison. She’s being raised by her mom, serving time.
"Yeah, I'm going to tell her when she gets older that she was here with me,” Shanah Howell said.
Illegal prescription drugs landed a pregnant Shanah in the Vigo County Jail.
She believes prison is giving her a second chance at motherhood.
"People just don't understand that because they hear prison, what they assume prison's like, it's not like your typical prison,” Howell said.
The Wee Ones Nursery is the elite baby dorm, only housing 10 moms at a time.
Shanah, a Terre Haute mother of four, spends 24-7 with her newborn.
"There's a lot more things I see myself doing with her that I don't see myself doing with the other kids," she said.
At a glance, she looks like any mother giving her bouncing baby a bottle but Shanah knows raising MacKenna inside prison walls is controversial.
"’Why should the babies have to experience their first time being born in prison? That's your mistake,’” Howell said a woman told her about the program. “But why should they have to [suffer] for it, why should they not be able to bond with their mom because of a choice I made? My daughter didn't make that choice,” she said.
She believes parenting in prison has changed her for the better.
Holding her youngest, MacKenna, she is a constant reminder of her three children on the outside, being raised by their grandmother.
"I don't know what they [are] like, what they like to do, so my main focus when I get out is to know what they're interested in and give them a lot of attention and love,” Howell said.
Shanah knows this is her last chance at motherhood, something she doesn't want to give up again.
"Stay focused on putting my life back together and living for my kids and not being so selfish,” Howell said.
By the time mother and daughter are released, MacKenna will be nearly 10 months old, the first time she'll sleep outside of her prison crib.
Join us for part two, as we take an in-depth look at the controversial prison program and why they believe it's going to keep women from returning to a life of crime.
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