Infants in Correctional Facilities


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New York State law allows women who give birth while in jail to have their newborn in the jail with them if they wish until the child reaches one year of age. In at least one New York State jail accredited by NCCHC, a woman is keeping her baby in the jail environment. What do the standards say about this? Are health staff responsible for the child’s health?

The Commission’s standards do not address the provision of health care for anyone other than inmates. Whether health staff at a particular facility are responsible for providing health services to a child of an inmate who resides at the facility depends on the rules that were established to govern this program.
— From CorrectCare Volume 16, Issue 3, Summer 2002


We are an accredited women’s prison and our commissioners have asked us to develop a “newborn” program on-site so that pregnant inmates wanting to keep their child would be able to have the baby in the facility for the first year. Would such a program be in compliance with NCCHC standards? Do you have any advice for us?

NCCHC’s standards do not address this issue since infants are not inmates in the traditional sense of the word. My advice is to research this issue carefully before launching such a program, because there are a number of legal, ethical and financial concerns that must be addressed. You also may want to visit a correctional facility that permits “babies behind bars” (such as Bedford Hills in New York State) to see how their program operates. [Note: For further discussion, see “Babies Behind Bars: The Rights and Liabilities of Babies and Mothers,” in the Winter 2001 CorrectCare.]
— From CorrectCare Volume 15, Issue 4, Fall 2001