Michigan issues policy aimed at supporting pregnant prisoners

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's administration announced a policy directive Tuesday that state officials say will guarantee medical resources for pregnant and post-partum prisoners and their newborns.

Heidi Washington, director of the Michigan Department of Corrections, signed the directive, requiring every pregnant prisoner be given the opportunity to develop a birth plan and to work with a doula, a professional labor assistant.

The policy limits when and how restraints can be used on pregnant or post-partum prisoners and requires the Corrections Department to allow post-partum prisoners to pump breast milk. Post-partum inmates have to be allowed to breastfeed their newborn during in-person visits, the directive stipulates.

"Every pregnant Michigander deserves access to a safe birth, critical maternal health care and essential post-partum supports," Whitmer said in a statement.

The policy formalizes existing department practices in some areas, including the use of restraints, expands the involvement of birth plans and allows prisoners additional time with their newborns immediately after delivery, according to the governor's office. "Appropriate staff" must be trained annually in managing pregnant and post-partum prisoners under the directive.

State Sen. Erika Geiss, D-Taylor, labeled the directive "critical to protecting the physical and mental health of incarcerated pregnant people."

"These policies are just a start to help reduce recidivism rates for parents in prison and give their babies a better chance of success," Geiss said. "We are proud to have worked for years with a broad and diverse coalition of stakeholders on shaping this policy.

"We thank Gov. Whitmer for her leadership, and we are renewed in our enthusiasm to continue implementing policies that value health and safety for all pregnant people, including incarcerated ones."