I am a nursing administrator at a women's correctional facility. While I feel sorry for the children, I have far less sympathy for the offender. Whatever her feelings for her unborn child, it wasn't enough to prevent her from committing a crime. It would be beneficial to the child to have time to bond, but this is not practical in a prison environment. The mother is deprived of many of the experiences of childbirth and bonding with the infant, but it is of her own doing. Many of these women have committed significant crimes, and I do not believe that preganancy should mitigate the punishment they receive for committing them. Separation from society, including family, is often the consequence for committing felonies.
Our caseworkers and social worker work closely with pregnant inmates on placement of infants after birth. Some are put up for adoption, while others are turned over to other caregivers (usually family members). Thorough background checks are performed on the person or persons who will take custody of the infant and the home situation is investigated, to ensure that to the best of our knowledge the baby is not being placed in a dangerous environment or placed with people who are unable to provide proper care.
I saw a show on MSNBC about some penitentiaries that have mother/baby units and programs where mothers are housed in secure, baby friendly units and are allowed to keep their babies for one year. I think that's an awesome program and should be more widely promoted so that other institutions can follow suit. (JMHO).
This was considered in my state, and it was discarded due to the tremendous cost. Specially trained staff would have to be hired to work 24-7, a new facility would have to be built, and it would have to be licensed as a day care center, subject to rigid standards that would be very difficult to meet while maintaining necessary security procedures. There is also the possibility of one mother becoming angry with another and deliberately injuring her baby (after all, people aren't sent to prison for being mature or exercising appropriate judgment). Another consideration is that it would take about 15 minutes for the first lawsuit to be filed by a male offender asserting that his rights as a father were just as important.
The simple solution for pregnant mothers is, don't commit a crime.