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8 Health & Just. 1 (2020)

handle is hein.journals/hlthjs8 and id is 1 raw text is: Pendleton et al. Health and Justice  (2020) 8:1
https://doi.org/1 0.1186/s40352-019-0102-0

Health and Justice

Corrections officers' knowledge and
perspectives of maternal and child health
policies and programs for pregnant women
in prison
Virginia Pendleton, Jennifer B. Saunders2 and Rebecca Shlafer3
Background: In response to the dramatic increase in the number of women incarcerated in the United States
and a growing awareness that a small proportion of women enter prison pregnant and have unique health
needs some prisons have implemented policies and programs to support pregnant women (defined here as
maternal and child health [MCH] policies and programs). Corrections officers (COs) are key stakeholders in the
successful implementation of prison policies and programs. Yet, little empirical research has examined prison COs'
knowledge and perspectives of MCH policies and programs, particularly the impact such policies and programs
have on COs' primary job responsibility of maintaining safety and security. The objective of this mixed-methods
study was to understand COs' knowledge and perspectives of MCH policies and programs in one state prison, with
a specific emphasis on the prison's pregnancy and birth support (doula) program.
Results: Thirty-eight COs at a single large, Midwestern women's prison completed an online survey, and eight of
these COs participated in an individual, in-person qualitative interview. Results indicated that COs' perspectives on
MCH policies and programs were generally positive. Most COs strongly approved of the prison's doula program and
the practice of not restraining pregnant women. COs reported that MCH policies and programs did not interfere, and
in some cases helped, with their primary job task of maintaining safety and security.
Conclusions: Findings support expansion of MCH programs and policies in prisons, while underscoring the need to
offer more CO training and to gather more CO input during program development and implementation. MCH services
that provide support to pregnant women that are outside the scope of COs' roles may help reduce CO job demands,
improve facility safety, and promote maternal and child health.
Keywords: Corrections officer, Prison, Pregnancy, Maternal and child health, Doula, Mixed methods

The United States (US) has the largest population of in-
carcerated women in the world, with approximately 112,
000 women in federal or state prisons and another 110,
000 in jails (Carson 2018; Walmsley 2017). Women in
prison have health care needs unique from incarcerated
men, including gynecological and obstetric services
(Tapia and Vaughn 2010). National data on pregnancy
*Correspondence: pend0071@umn.edu
Dision of Epdemoogy, Scoo of Public Health, University of Minnesota,
420 Delaware Street SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA
Full list of author information is available at the end of the article


in prisons are not routinely collected, but a recent study
estimates that 3.8% of newly admitted women in US
prisons are pregnant (Sufrin et al. 2019). Although some
of these women are released before giving birth, each
year an estimated 1400 women in the US give birth
while incarcerated (Sufrin et al. 2019). As the female
prison population has risen, there has been a growing
call for gender-responsive policies and programs in car-
ceral settings, including the development and implemen-
tation of programs that meet the unique needs of
pregnant women in prison (Covington and Bloom 2007;
Goshin et al. 2017; Sufrin 2017).

© The Author(s). 2020 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0
International License (http//creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and
reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to
the Creative Commons license. and indicate if chanoes were made.

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