It’s Your Health

Pregnancy and Mother and Infant Health in California State Prisons
Pam Fadem
Incarceration in California becomes a go ahead for the CDC to condemn women prisoners to bad?or no?prenatal care. CDC policy results in denying the babies born in prison the good health and disease immunity afforded by at least 6 months of breast feeding and the bond built with their mothers.
Pregnant women do not receive any special diet, though they usually do get an ?extra snack? which may mean only one extra glass of milk a day! They are assigned to an OB/GYN doctor at the prison, but that is no guarantee that there will be regular check-ups or follow-up in case of any complications.
Dental care in the CDC is hard or near impossible to obtain, and for most it means getting teeth pulled rather than preventative care. For pregnant women, dental exams, regular teeth cleanings and treatment for gum disease are especially important. The bacteria from gum disease are linked to both premature deliveries and low infant birth weights.
Pregnant women are transported to the hospital in restraints while in labor and are shackled to their hospital beds. All of this jeopardizes 2 lives?the mother?s and her baby?s?as proved by the many miscarriages and stillbirths suffered by women prisoners.
The state has long had legislation requiring the CDC to allow pregnant women to live in community-based facilities before giving birth, and for up to 6 years afterwards with their child. But the Department has made it really hard to qualify for these programs, and the state has provided little funding. There are now only 3 Community Prisoner Mother Programs (CPMPs in Oakland, Pomona, and Bakersfield), also known as the Mother-Infant Program?down from 7?where women can live with their babies. A lot of ?experts? have studied programs similar to the CPMPs in other states (New York, Washington, Nebraska) and reported that not only are babies and moms healthier, but they also result in less recidivism for women and better lives for their children.
What can we do? If you are a pregnant woman inside ? or have already had your baby- and have a story that you want to share, please contact LSPC (see box on this page). And if you are on the outside and want to be involved in this advocacy work, also contact LSPC. Let?s protect our future generations!