Cafe 104: Equitable Access for Incarcerated Moms: Promising Practice

Room 102

Despite rising rates of female incarceration, there is a paucity of data regarding the outcomes and experiences of pregnant women in the carceral system. Mothers who are incarcerated are often situated squarely where familial and societal safety nets have failed. The nature of incarceration, including social isolation, near-immediate mother-infant separation, impossibility of a breastfeeding relationship, and lack of coordinated care for postpartum resources act as severe impediments to healthy mothers and families. Michigan Prison Doula Initiative is a program implemented in 2019 at Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility, offering doula services, childbirth education, peer counseling, and coordination between the prison and birth hospital.  Since implementation, every pregnant mother in the correctional facility has chosen to utilize MPDI’s services. Our session will describe the current state of care for pregnant women in prison, specifically within Michigan’s single state women’s prison, highlighting inequities, improvements in care and gaps in the system. The audience will have improved knowledge of pregnancy and birth outcomes in this population and how the initiation of a prison doula program is improving the delivery of care. Participants will gain competence in understanding the needs of pregnant women, mothers and infants in Michigan’s carceral system and strategies to address policy and programmatic change. We will discuss our vision for trauma-informed, community-based care for justice-involved pregnant women that does not involve imprisonment. As an alternative to incarceration, we must work toward buffering the social safety net–especially in low-resourced areas–through substance abuse treatment, counseling, education, parenting and employment services.