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New Supports for MN's Pregnant Inmates Begin Today

PHOTO: A law aimed at bringing new standards to the treatment and care of pregnant and postpartum inmates in Minnesota begins Tuesday at the women's prison in Shakopee, with expansion to county jails in July 2015. Photo credit: Frank de Kleine / Flickr.
PHOTO: A law aimed at bringing new standards to the treatment and care of pregnant and postpartum inmates in Minnesota begins Tuesday at the women's prison in Shakopee, with expansion to county jails in July 2015. Photo credit: Frank de Kleine / Flickr.
July 1, 2014

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The first law in the state to consider the unique needs of women in prison who are pregnant begins today. Jessica Anderson, director of legislative affairs and communications for Children's Defense Fund-Minnesota, says this new law is a first step toward creating healthy beginnings for an especially vulnerable population of children - babies born to incarcerated mothers.

"We know that one of the best ways to ensure that a child has a healthy start in life is to support its mother during pregnancy, postpartum and beyond," says Anderson. "And so, that's exactly what this new law sets out to do. It establishes some preliminary standards of care, treatment and education."

One of the law's provisions bans the use of restraints through three days following birth, except in extraordinary circumstances. Another measure allows pregnant inmates access to a certified doula if there is no charge to the facility, as the Isis Rising Prison Doula Program helped develop the law.

Anderson notes this is an issue that affects more families across Minnesota than one might think, with an estimated 4,200 pregnant women arrested in the state every year.

"And their pregnancies are often high-risk and compromised by a number of variables that increase the likelihood of poor birth outcomes," she notes. "So, it's a lot of women and a lot of children we are dealing with here."

The new law

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN