Understanding Support Programs for Pregnant and Postpartum Women in US State Prisons


Posted in the Criminal Justice Journalresearchers from the University of Minnesota Medical School examined variation in support programs for pregnant and postpartum women across six state prisons in the United States. The study revealed that the success of the programs depended in large part on the collaboration between the program facilitators and the partner prison sites.

Simply put, prisons were built by men, for men, and very little attention was given to the needs of women, especially those who are pregnant or postpartum in prison. This study is important because it examines unique support programs for pregnant and postpartum women. When we have a better understanding of what these prisons do, they can serve as models for other states to improve the care and treatment of this population.”

Rebecca Shlafer, PhD, MPH, associate professor at U of M Medical School

The researchers conducted interviews to gather information on the historical context, design, and key aspects of the implementation of the services offered at each site. The authors found that each program created or adapted its components to serve its specific populations and expressed needs. Services fell into five broad categories: group education and support, individual support, labor and delivery support, lactation facilitation and support, and other support services. Group education and support was the only program component offered by all six programs. Four of the six programs also offered individual support, labor and delivery support, and lactation support and facilitation.

Based on the first round of interviews with program facilitators, the researchers offered these specific recommendations for corrections and prison administrators:

  • Assess the needs and adequacy of program components by consulting directly with pregnant and postpartum people who are incarcerated in a specific facility.
  • Identify community partners, such as nonprofits, universities, or hospital systems, who bring diverse professional expertise and have an interest in building collaborative partnerships to provide these types of programs for incarcerated people.
  • Identify leaders and champions within the prison and at the Department of Corrections level who will support this type of program

The researchers say it’s important for sites to share information and resources to help future programs get started. They suggest that future research could benefit from assessing the perspectives of others involved in these programs, such as program staff, management, and especially program participants, and understanding the evolution of these services over time, particularly as the COVID-19 pandemic recedes.


University of Minnesota School of Medicine

Journal reference:

Wilson, SH, et al. (2022) Enhanced Perinatal Programs for Incarcerated Persons: A Summary of Programs from Six States. Criminal Justice Journal. doi.org/10.1016/j.jcrimjus.2022.101965.


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