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Continued: State takes a gentler approach to pregnant women behind bars

  • Article by: LIZ SAWYER , Star Tribune
  • Last update: August 22, 2014 - 12:09 AM

Now women are allowed to stay with their newborns unrestrained for 48 hours — or 72 if they have a C-section. Once it is time to return to prison, the doula delivers the baby to a family member or social service worker. There can be no contact between the family and the inmate.

Prison officials say they have to strike a balance between providing needed security and ensuring the well-being of the mother and the newborn. Pregnant inmates can have violent histories, and other states have reported women trying to hurt medical staff during delivery.

Shakopee officials said they had to make few changes when the new law took effect, and are proud of the level of care pregnant inmates receive.

“Offenders receive the same standard of care as pregnant women receive in the community,” corrections spokeswoman Sarah Latuseck said.

Health advocates say the new law ensures a more humane experience for mothers and their newborns.

“Childbirth is a humbling and overwhelming experience for everyone,” said Katy Kozhimannil, an assistant professor at University of Minnesota. “Having a doula helps make this transition easier.”

An advisory committee will convene to consider additional treatment and education options for incarcerated women who are pregnant or recently gave birth and present a report to the Legislature in January.

“The reality is that these infants are completely innocent in all of this,” said Rebecca Shlafer, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Minnesota and chair of the advisory committee. “Only good can come of having women be supported to have healthy pregnancies and births — regardless of what got them into prison in the first place.”

Liz Sawyer • 612-673-4648

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