Gov. Whitmer gives more support to pregnant, post-partum prisoners and their newborns

Initiative will allow prisoners more time with their newborns after delivery

Photo of Angela Mulka
FILE — Pictured is a pregnant female.

FILE — Pictured is a pregnant female.

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Today, Gov. Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Corrections announced a policy directive that will guarantee critical medical resources and support to pregnant and post-partum prisoners and their newborns. The directive will also allow prisoners more time with their newborns immediately after delivery.

Formalizing existing MDOC practices in areas such as the limitation on the use of restraints and the provision of Medication Assisted Treatment, while expanding the use of birth plans, the directive aims to "make our corrections system more just," according to Whitmer.

And, it has several pieces focused on improving health outcomes for pregnant and post-partum prisoners and their newborns. They include:

  • Birth Plan & Doula: Every pregnant prisoner will have the opportunity to develop a birth plan in consultation with health care staff and can work with a doula. Birth plans will respect the autonomy of the prisoner and empower them to make their own healthcare decisions.
  • Support Person: The policy formalizes a practice that has been in place the last few years to ensure every pregnant prisoner has the opportunity to designate a support person that may be present at the hospital and support the prisoner and baby.
  • Limits on Restraints: Pregnant prisoners will only be restrained up to an hour maximum and only if the safety of other inmates, staff, or the public is at risk. Consistent with current practice, prisoners may not be restrained during labor.
  • Visitation: Visitation between post-partum prisoners and their newborns will only be restricted in extreme circumstances and post-partum prisoners are allowed to breastfeed their newborns during visits.
  • Medication: Maintains the current practice of ensuring prisoners have access to peri-natal and post-partum vitamins as determined by their birth plan and can participate in Medication Assisted Treatment if appropriate based on substance use disorder history.
  • Training: MDOC will develop new training for staff and ensure appropriate staff are trained annually in managing pregnant and post-partum prisoners.

“Every pregnant Michigander deserves access to a safe birth, critical maternal healthcare, and essential post-partum supports,” Whitmer said in a press release. “I am proud that MDOC, Sen. (Erika) Geiss, key stakeholders, and my office worked together to formalize these critical policies for treatment of pregnant and post-partum Michiganders who are incarcerated."

And, Michigan Department of Corrections Director Heidi Washington weighs in on her experience at the Women's Huron Valley Correctional Facility.

“We are pleased to be able to build upon our past practices and policies to further enhance our commitment to providing a safe experience for women who come to us while pregnant and are under our care and supervision,” Washington said in a press release. “Our staff at Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility take great pride in the services they provide to ensure pregnant and post-partum prisoners have their physical and mental health needs met during this time. These policy enhancements will further that commitment and continue to make Michigan a national leader in this and so many other corrections-related areas.”

To view the full policy directive, visit here.