The Department of Corrections in Logan County, Illinois, is doing a novel thing to help expectant mothers who are inmates.
Pregnant at the time of their arrests, at any given time there could be up to 17 pregnant mothers incarcerated in the facility, say Logan County Correctional Center authorities. To make conditions more humane to care for both the mothers and their children in the womb, the facility has opened a “pregnancy wing” equipped with several of the comforts of home. This approach is more rehabilitative than punitive, and with the addition of parenting classes, it helps mothers to feel prepared to parent their children once they’ve served their time.
New rules even allow the new moms to breastfeed when they see their young children during family visits, which is important for maternal-child bonding, and helps those mothers to feel that they are a valuable part of their children’s lives even when they cannot be with them every day.
“It gives you, like, that sense of, I’m doing something for my child, I’m providing. So it makes you feel like you are important and you are needed in your child’s life instead of feeling, like, worthless, I’m not there,” said one inmate.
The women also say they feel a “sisterhood” with the other pregnant inmates, and are in more of a position to support each other through a challenging time.
According to the correctional authorities, women in the pregnancy wing receive “around the clock education, training and treatment,” and even real beds with pillows, access to both electric and manual breast pumps, and even a refrigerator for snacks.
Another inmate said this type of approach — a far cry from giving birth while shackled — will “help a lot of women in the long run…. It’s nice that they’re trying to make it a better environment for our babies.”
Pregnancy resource centers also exist in the state to help these moms and their children upon the mothers’ re-entry into society. These centers offer services such as baby furniture, clothing, parenting classes, housing and employment assistance, and more. In a state where abortion is legal up to birth for any “health” reason (financial, familial, etc.), it is important that women know they have life-affirming places to turn (free of charge) instead of turning to abortion facilities.
Whether incarcerated or in society, mothers and babies need parenting help and other types of assistance to empower them to be the very best parents they can be. Hopefully, more women’s prisons will follow Logan County’s example.
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