Skip to main content

Governor Whitmer Expands Maternal and Post-Partum Healthcare for Prisoners


October 19, 2021   


Governor Whitmer Expands Maternal and Post-Partum Healthcare for Prisoners  

New Michigan Department of Corrections directive will deliver adequate medical resources and support to pregnant and post-partum prisoners and their newborns 

LANSING, Mich. -?Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) announced a new policy directive that will guarantee critical medical resources and support to pregnant and post-partum prisoners and their newborns. The directive formalizes existing MDOC practices in areas such as the limitation on the use of restraints and the provision of Medication Assisted Treatment, while expanding the use of birth plans and allowing prisoners additional time with their newborns immediately after delivery

"Every pregnant Michigander deserves access to a safe birth, critical maternal healthcare, and essential post-partum supports," said Governor Whitmer. "I am proud that MDOCSenator Geiss, key stakeholders, and my office worked together to formalize these critical policies for treatment of pregnant and post-partum Michiganders who are incarcerated. Our actions today will improve health outcomes for moms and babies and make our corrections system more just." 

"We are pleased to be able to build upon our past practices and policies to further enhance our commitment to providing a safe experience for women who come to us while pregnant and are under our care and supervision," said Michigan Department of Corrections Director Heidi Washington. "Our staff at Women's Huron Valley Correctional Facility take great pride in the services they provide to ensure pregnant and post-partum prisoners have their physical and mental health needs met during this time. These policy enhancements will further that commitment and continue to make Michigan a national leader in this and so many other corrections-related areas." 

"This policy directive is critical to protecting the physical and mental health of incarcerated pregnant people" said State Senator Erika Geiss (D-Taylor). "Every pregnancy in prison is high risk. This policy is a necessary step forward in supporting the health and safety of expectant pregnant prisoners, and in turn, will reduce the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) scores for the newborns and infants of incarcerated parents. We know that trauma is generational, and by instituting these much-needed policies, we mitigate adding to and creating more trauma. These policies are just a start to help reduce recidivism rates for parents in prison and give their babies a better chance of success. We are proud to have worked for years with a broad and diverse coalition of stakeholders on shaping this policy. We thank Governor 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." 

"Quite simply, this directive is a necessary step toward enacting what we have long known is evidence-based best medical practice" said Deb Landis Lewis, MD, FACOG, an OBGYN who has delivered the babies of incarcerated individuals at St. Joe's hospital. "I am encouraged that Michigan is assuring humane and equitable care for all of the individuals who give birth in our state, especially those who are incarcerated. I want to express my thanks and gratitude to Governor Whitmer, Senator Geiss, and the many people who have been working so diligently for change, especially those who have been directly impacted and are brave enough to share their stories to effect change for others." 

"Thank you to Senator Geiss and her staff for being such a powerful comrade and ally in this work and to Governor Whitmer for using her power to center the relationships between imprisoned mothers and pregnant people, and their children and families," said national political activist and lead organizer for Freedom Team who was formerly incarcerated, Siwatu-Salama Ra. "I believe that no child should be separated from their mother but until that dream can be materialized, I am hopeful and grateful for this policy directive and the good that will come from it." 

The new directive has several pieces focused on improving health outcomes for pregnant and post-partum prisoners and their newborns. They include: 

  • Birth Plan & Doula: every pregnant prisoner will have the opportunity to develop a birth plan in consultation with health care staff and can work with a doula. Birth plans will respect the autonomy of the prisoner and empower them to make their own healthcare decisions.  
  • Support Personthe policy formalizes a practice that has been in place the last few years to ensure every pregnant prisoner has the opportunity to designate a support person that may be present at the hospital and support the prisoner and baby. 
  • Limits on Restraintspregnant prisoners will only be restrained up to an hour maximum and only if the safety of other inmates, staff, or the public is at risk. Consistent with current practice, prisoners may not be restrained during labor.?? 
  • Visitation: visitation between post-partum prisoners and their newborns will only restricted in extreme circumstances and post-partum prisoners are allowed to breastfeed their newborns during visits.  
  • Medicationmaintains the current practice of ensuring prisoners have access to peri-natal and post-partum vitamins as determined by their birth plan and can participate in Medication Assisted Treatment if appropriate based on substance use disorder history. 
  • Training: MDOC will develop new training for staff and ensure appropriate staff are trained annually in managing pregnant and post-partum prisoners.   

To view the full policy directive, click the link below: