Rehabilitation, Not Restitution: Establishing a Prison Nursery in Missouri

Photo courtesy of Washington Post

Missouri separates incarcerated moms from their babies 24 hours after birth, but new funding from the state means this practice will soon change. Thanks to bipartisan-supported funding, the Department of Corrections is establishing a prison nursery in Missouri at the Vandalia women’s prison, slated to open this summer.

The Problem

Abrupt separation of moms and babies so soon after birth inflicts detrimental effects on the child’s social and emotional development. The effects also devastate the mother’s mental and emotional well-being. And the number of mother-baby pairs affected by this kind of separation has only increased over the past three decades: as incarceration of women in the U.S. has increased, so too has an increase in pregnant moms.

A growing international movement aimed at protecting the rights of children of incarcerated parents reflects a notable shift in societal attitudes and practices concerning the treatment of pregnant women in prisons. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, signed by 97 countries, underscores the importance of implementing federal policies to outline processes to protect the well-being of children of incarcerated parents. Despite these recommendations, the U.S. has yet to enact federal policy to address the growing disparities experienced by incarcerated families.

This means states must step up on their own. In Missouri, this took the form of Senate Bill 834.

The Solution

S.B. 834 introduced funding and programming for the Department of Corrections to establish a prison nursery in Missouri at the Vandalia women’s prison. Prison nurseries allow women who give birth in prison to live with their babies for up to eighteen months. These nursery units within prisons provide a more dedicated environment for women to give birth, care for their infants, and engage in programs such as parenting classes and substance abuse treatment.

This concept traces back to 1902, when the first prison nursery opened in New York. Today, nine additional states, including South Dakota, Indiana, Ohio, Nebraska, Washington, Indiana, and California, have implemented similar programs and seen significant benefits to both mothers and children. Allowing mothers to stay with their infants facilitates crucial bonding and connection, offering families the opportunity to break cycles of trauma and envision a brighter future.

For infants, the opportunity to stay with their mother after birth has been shown to foster more secure attachments, contrasting to the insecure attachments that children may develop growing up without their mothers. Such separations can lead to cognitive and behavioral delays, and potentially manifest into symptoms of depression and anxiety later in their lives.

Research has also shown that mothers participating in the program experience lower rates of recidivism, postpartum depression, and trauma. Mothers participating in prison nursery programs experience a significant decrease in mental health issues, the primary cause of maternal mortality in Missouri. Conversely, mothers who are separated from their children face severe anxiety, postpartum depression, and trauma. Given the high expenses of recidivism, both to the individual and society, the program is economically compelling. Recidivism is the likelihood that an individual will return to the prison system once they have been released. Due to the high cost of incarceration and foster care, building a prison nursery for babies to stay with their mothers saves taxpayers and governments. Further, research suggests that prison nursery programs could yield long term cost savings.

Next Steps

The prison nursery in Missouri program gained broad bipartisan support. Both Democrats and Republicans enthusiastically supported this bill, underscoring the shared humanity that unites us all. As former Representative DeGroot and Senator Trent explained, “there are many compelling reasons to support prison nurseries including improved maternal health, child development, recidivism, and foster care cost savings. We believe babies belong with their mothers. The Missouri Legislature should do everything in its power to promote and preserve healthy families.”

The prison nursery in Vandalia, Missouri is a necessary step towards addressing the challenges faced by incarcerated mothers and their children. It emphasizes family development, understanding, and humanity, and underscores a shift towards rehabilitation in the criminal justice system, rather than retribution. You can learn more about the nursery here and sign up to receive updates on the nursery, slated to open July 2024.

 

Thanks to Washington University student Ellie Budde for her contributions to this post!

601 251 Missouri Appleseed

Wilford Pinkney Jr.

St. Louis Mayor’s Office

City of St. Louis, Office of Violence Prevention

Wilford Pinkney Jr. currently serves as the Director of the Office of Violence Prevention for the City of St. Louis. The Office of Violence Prevention provides strategic direction and oversight for the City of St. Louis’ efforts to create safe and healthy neighborhoods free of violence.

Mr. Pinkney previously served as the Director of the Mayor’s Office of Children, Youth, and Families for the City of St. Louis. He has overseen the development of a Crisis Management System focused on building healthy and vibrant communities by addressing trauma and increasing access to care. Prior to joining the administration, Pinkney was a FUSE Executive Fellow leading a cross-sector group of stakeholders in the development of a comprehensive pretrial reform plan in the City of St. Louis.

Wilford holds a B.S. in Organizational Management from Mercy College, a Masters in Public Administration from New York University, and a Master of Arts in Political Science from the CUNY Graduate Center. He is currently a doctoral candidate in Political Science at the CUNY Graduate Center, where he specializes in public policy and American politics.

Wilford Pinkney Jr.

St. Louis Mayor’s Office

City of St. Louis, Office of Violence Prevention

Wilford Pinkney Jr. currently serves as the Director of the Office of Violence Prevention for the City of St. Louis. The Office of Violence Prevention provides strategic direction and oversight for the City of St. Louis’ efforts to create safe and healthy neighborhoods free of violence.

Mr. Pinkney previously served as the Director of the Mayor’s Office of Children, Youth, and Families for the City of St. Louis. He has overseen the development of a Crisis Management System focused on building healthy and vibrant communities by addressing trauma and increasing access to care. Prior to joining the administration, Pinkney was a FUSE Executive Fellow leading a cross-sector group of stakeholders in the development of a comprehensive pretrial reform plan in the City of St. Louis.

Wilford holds a B.S. in Organizational Management from Mercy College, a Masters in Public Administration from New York University, and a Master of Arts in Political Science from the CUNY Graduate Center. He is currently a doctoral candidate in Political Science at the CUNY Graduate Center, where he specializes in public policy and American politics.

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Todd Kaye

Board President

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP

A partner at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, where he focuses on mergers and acquisitions, securities law, and general corporate matters, Mr. Kaye holds a J.D. and an M.B.A. from Washington University in St. Louis. He also serves on the Board of Directors of College Bound. Mr. Kaye has been a member of Missouri Appleseed’s Board of Directors since November 2017.

Anisha Moorhead

Board Vice President

Lindenwood University

Ms. Moorhead received her B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Missouri – Columbia. She holds an M.B.A. in Marketing and an M.A. in Corporate Communication in Promotions from Lindenwood University. She is the former Director of Communications and Annual Programs for SSM Health Care – St. Louis, a former Lambert St. Louis Airport Commissioner and Forest Park Advisory Board Member, and a member of the 2011-2012 class of Leadership St. Louis. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis with an emphasis in Critical Race Theory at University of Missouri – St. Louis and an Adjunct Professor of Communications at Lindenwood University. Ms. Moorhead has been a member of Missouri Appleseed’s Board of Directors since November 2017.

Hugh A. Eastwood

Board Secretary

Attorney at Law

Mr. Eastwood is a litigator, mostly in civil rights, who has won significant verdicts and settlements for victims of government misconduct, for whistleblowers, and for those harmed by breach of trust and contract. He received his B.A. and J.D. from Yale, where he has also taught. Before law school, he managed the site design competition for the rebuilding of the World Trade Center at Ground Zero. Mr. Eastwood serves on the boards of several St. Louis nonprofits and has been a director of Missouri Appleseed since November 2017.

Molly Carney

Board Treasurer

Staff Attorney, ACLU of Missouri

Ms. Carney is a staff attorney at ACLU of Missouri. Before that, she served as in-house counsel at Wells Fargo Advisors, where she supported the brokerage business with a variety of legal matters. Previously, Ms. Carney clerked for Chief Judge Rodney Sippel of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri and spent several years practicing trusts and estates law. She is a graduate of Northwestern University and Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. She has been a member of Missouri Appleseed’s Board of Directors since April 2019.

Andrew Schlichter

Board Nominations and Governance

Schlichter Bogard & Denton

Mr. Schlichter is a trial attorney at Schlichter Bogard & Denton, where he focuses on class actions and complex civil litigation. He received his B.A. from Georgetown University and J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School and has been a member of Missouri Appleseed’s Board of Directors since November 2017.

Brandon Hall

Armstrong Teasdale, LLP

Mr. Hall is an associate attorney at Armstrong Teasdale, LLP, where he practices corporate and health care law. He obtained his B.A. in Political Science and Public Policy from the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy at SUNY Albany and his J.D. with concentrations in both health and employment law from St. Louis University School of Law. Prior to and during law school, Mr. Hall worked extensively in government relations, including on state and federal health policy issues.

Cindy Finney Henry

Attorney at Law

Ms. Henry earned her B.A. in Justice Systems from Truman State University and her J.D. from St. Louis University. She spent nearly two years as an Assistant Circuit Attorney in St. Louis City, where she prosecuted cases ranging from misdemeanors to sex crimes and child abuse. Ms. Henry then spent several years representing juveniles in delinquency and criminal proceedings as part of the Missouri Public Defender’s Juvenile Defense Unit. Most recently Ms. Henry taught several courses as an adjunct professor in the Criminal Justice Program at St. Louis Community College. Ms. Henry has been a member of Missouri Appleseed’s Board of Directors since November 2017.

Tali Katz

Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale, P.C.

Mrs. Katz is an attorney at Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale, P.C. She practices litigation with a focus on corporate defense work. She previously worked for the Office of the District Attorney General in Nashville, Tennessee, where she led the domestic violence prosecution team. In 2014, Mrs. Katz received the Outstanding State Government Official award for her work as a prosecutor. Mrs. Katz served as a director of The Mary Parrish Center for victims of domestic and sexual violence in Nashville and has been a director of Missouri Appleseed since January 2018.

Ray Lin

Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment

Mr. Lin received his B.A. from Harvard University and his J.D. from Columbia University. He is Chief Legal Officer for Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment. He is a retired partner at Latham & Watkins LLP, where his practice focused on the representation of private equity firms in mergers and acquisitions and capital market transactions. He serves on the Board of Visitors of Columbia Law School. Mr. Lin is Chairman of National Appleseed’s Board of Directors and has been a member of Missouri Appleseed’s Board of Directors since November 2017.

Jessica Moore

Head of Enterprise Strategy

Arianna Muckerman

The Centene Corporation

Arianna Muckerman is the for the Centene Corporation. She received her B.A. from Boston College and her M.P.H. from Washington University in St. Louis. She has been a member of Missouri Appleseed’s Board of Directors since July 2021.

Wilford Pinkney Jr.

St. Louis Mayor’s Office

City of St. Louis, Office of Violence Prevention

Wilford Pinkney Jr. currently serves as the Director of the Office of Violence Prevention for the City of St. Louis. The Office of Violence Prevention provides strategic direction and oversight for the City of St. Louis’ efforts to create safe and healthy neighborhoods free of violence.

Mr. Pinkney previously served as the Director of the Mayor’s Office of Children, Youth, and Families for the City of St. Louis. He has overseen the development of a Crisis Management System focused on building healthy and vibrant communities by addressing trauma and increasing access to care. Prior to joining the administration, Pinkney was a FUSE Executive Fellow leading a cross-sector group of stakeholders in the development of a comprehensive pretrial reform plan in the City of St. Louis.

Wilford holds a B.S. in Organizational Management from Mercy College, a Masters in Public Administration from New York University, and a Master of Arts in Political Science from the CUNY Graduate Center. He is currently a doctoral candidate in Political Science at the CUNY Graduate Center, where he specializes in public policy and American politics.

Alexandra Rankin

Upstream USA

Alex Rankin is the Associate Director of State Policy with Upstream USA and has worked to advance access to health care throughout her career. Prior to joining Upstream, Alex worked as the Director of Government Affairs for a large health foundation where she was responsible for engaging and educating policymakers on various health policy topics, including Medicaid and maternal and reproductive health. Alex graduated from Saint Louis University School of Law in 2015 with a concentration in health law and is a licensed attorney through the Missouri Bar. Alex lives in St. Louis with her husband, daughter, and dog and enjoys exploring new parks and the vibrant St. Louis foodie scene.

Missouri Appleseed green

Annie Beattie

St. Louis County Justice Services

Ms. Beattie is a staff attorney for the St. Louis County Justice Services Pre-Trial Release Program. She received her B.A. from the University of Virginia and her J.D. from Georgia State University College of Law. Ms. Beattie, who also serves on the founding Board of Directors of Gateway Children’s Charity, has been a member of Missouri Appleseed’s Board of Directors since November 2017.

Michelle Clardy Dobbs

Caleres, Inc.

Associate General Counsel

Missouri Appleseed - Liza Weiss

Liza Weiss

Founding Director

Liza Weiss is the Executive Director of Missouri Appleseed. Liza is a St. Louis native and former public interest attorney. She holds a B.A. from Yale University and a J.D. from George Washington University Law School. Liza’s professional background includes work with the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, the Committee for Public Counsel Services, and the Children’s Law Center (DC).

Julie Alverson

US Account Director, Health and Beauty at Brand Addition

Emily Baron Bernstein

McCormack Baron Salazar

As Senior Vice President of Development at McCormack Baron Salazar, Ms. Bernstein is responsible for all aspects of the development process, including leveraging and securing project financing and coordinating a diverse team of specialists, consultants, investors, stakeholders, and public officials from project inception through project stabilization.

She has worked on multiple development projects, including North Sarah Apartments, Flance Early Learning Center, Covenant Place, and Preservation Square in St. Louis, Foote Park at South City in Memphis, Tenn., and the Cedars and Magnolia in Galveston, Texas.

Prior to joining McCormack Baron Salazar, Ms. Bernstein worked at the Nathalie P. Voorhees Center for Neighborhoods and Community Improvement and the Community Development Financial Institution, IFF, in their Real Estate Development Group. Ms. Bernstein’s experience extends beyond managing development and construction into financial structuring of both 9% and 4% low-income housing tax credit deals, as well as mixed finance transactions.

Ms. Bernstein holds a Master of Arts in Urban Planning from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies from the University of Pennsylvania.

Jake Rosenfeld

The Weidenbaum Center

Jake Rosenfeld is a professor of sociology at Washington University in St. Louis, and a resident fellow of the Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy. He is primarily interested in the determinants of wages and salaries, and how these vary across time and place. His book What Unions No Longer Do (Harvard University Press 2014) examines the consequences of organized labor’s decline, and received wide attention in such outlets as the New Yorker and Harvard Business Review. His book You’re Paid What You’re Worth and Other Myths of the Modern Economy (Harvard University Press 2021) seeks to answer the basic question: who gets what and why? The book has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Harvard Business Review, among other outlets. He received his Ph.D. from Princeton University.

Mary Quandt

Mary Quandt

Director of Public Health Policy

Mary Quandt is the Director of Public Health Policy at Missouri Appleseed. Originally from rural Wisconsin, she has called Missouri home for almost a decade. Mary received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a Master of Public Health from Washington University in St. Louis, and a law degree from St. Louis University School of Law. Before Missouri Appleseed, Mary served in the Peace Corps as a health educator and worked with various public health nonprofits.

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