Cook County opens new jail for pregnant inmates

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The nation's fastest growing prison population? Moms, according to a recent study--many of them expectant mothers. That is why Cook County decided to open a special unit just for pregnant inmates, providing them with the prenatal care and help with parenting skills they need to raise healthy children.

Losing a mom to incarceration often starts a cycle in a child's life, leading them eventually to become incarcerated themselves. "The Cook County Jail has seen multiple sets of multigenerational women in custody at the same time," they said, in a press release.

This new move will impact a lot of women in Cook County. The Cook County Sheriff's Office reports that since July 2009, there have been 327 pregnant women--12 of whom have given birth--in jail.

In October, we reported that Illinois had been given a "D" on prenatal care by the Rebecca Project on Human Rights. The Illinois Department of Corrections refuted their claims, saying that it provided prenatal care to pregnant inmates, but this new program will be additional help for women facing similar situations in jail.

Although the corrections department already has a special unit for pregnant moms in prison who are within two years of their release date, this special program will help women awaiting trial. Those women would have previously been housed within the regular jail population, but now, they'll receive special access to services such as courses on substance abuse, anger management, child development, parenting and group therapy. They'll also get meals specifically designed for the nutritional needs of pregnant women.

The hope is that the women who receive these extra services will then be able to have contact visits with their children, continuing the bond between mother and child.

"It's our hope that these changes provide the kind of impetus for change these women
so desperately need in their lives," Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said. "We want to help them break the cycle so we don't see another generation coming through our doors."

Photo credit: Abril E


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