Illinois refutes claims about lack of prenatal care for inmates

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After our story yesterday about Illinois getting a "D" grade for prenatal care for female inmates from the Rebecca Project, we got a call from the Illinois Department of Corrections wanting to correct some information talked about in the Rebecca Project's report.

The report, they say, which said there was no evidence that our state provides prenatal care to pregnant inmates, is incorrect. I talked with Debbie Denning, women and family services coordinator at IDOC, who told me about the intensive services they provide to expectant mothers.

All women who enter through Dwight Correctional Center who are pregnant
are assigned to a special caseload, screened for sexually transmitted
diseases and diabetes, and seen by an OB/GYN to assess their pregnancy.

"We really consider all our women high risk pregnancies," said Denning.

Then
women are provided counseling and asked about their plans for after the
baby is born. They can be placed in special housing if the staff feels
that's appropriate.

If a woman is within two years of her
release date, she is eligible to enter the Moms and Babies unit, where
women can take parenting and development classes while they wait for
their babies to arrive and stay with them after they are born to up to
age two.

Denning says Illnois has been a leader in taking care of  women in prison.

"We were one of the first states to even have a no shackling policy for pregnant women," she said.

All
women who are pregnant are given a special colored ID so that all
prison staff are aware that they shouldn't be shackled in particular
ways that could injure them or their unborn child.

These
reforms, she says, have had a lot to do with the center's falling
recidivism rate. In the Moms and Babies program, where mothers are given
a chance to bond with their child, the recidivism rate is actually zero percent,
according to Denning.

"When they're sober and they learn to bond with their child, they realize that that needs to be their priority," said Denning.

Denning said she was confused by the Rebecca Project report. She says
she didn't have any contact with the group, although she has reached out
to them now.

"We have worked so hard to do all these good things for the women," said Denning. "They're such an important population."

The Rebecca Project's Jill Morrison had this response to our inquiries about the report:

 
"The [Illinois] Director is currently sending me the
policies. As we made clear in the report, we could only grade what was publicly
available (as reported in our primary source from the ACLU). This is to ensure
consistency and accountability in the enforcement of policies, and to make sure
that good policies don't go away with the particular administration that put
them in place. We will be issuing an update once we've heard from the states
that have indicated a willingness to make their policies available to us." 

Photo credit: rumpleteaser

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