Doula program launched in Alabama’s Tutwiler prison generates state interest

Doula program launched in Alabama’s Tutwiler prison generates state interest

A committee that supports women’s health programs at the Alabama Department of Public Health got a chance on Friday, September 16, 2016, to learn more about a new doula program that is serving pregnant women at the state’s Tutwiler Correctional Facility.

Ashley Lovell, a DONA-certified doula, created the Alabama Prison Birth Project with the support of Corizon Health, which provides medical care for all Alabama inmates.

Her inspiration for the Alabama program came after Corizon Health invited representatives of a doula program in Minnesota to speak at Tutwiler. Corizon Health also provided financial support to help get the nonprofit program off the ground.

Lovell said the program is designed to provide pregnant inmates with emotional support and information that will lead to better outcomes for mother and child. Research indicates that mothers who receive doula support have shorter labor times, fewer complications, healthier babies and a more positive experience overall.

The Women’s Health Steering Committee invited Lovell to its quarterly meeting to give a presentation on the doula program. Committee members expressed an interest in finding ways to partner with the doula program in the future.

Still in its first year, the doula program at Tutwiler currently offers monthly support group meetings to pregnant inmates. Lovell hopes to see the program expand to weekly meetings and to include other supportive programs for women before, during and after delivery.

The ultimate hope is that inmates who have a better birth experience and a greater connection with their child will see benefits for the remainder of their prison term and once they are released, Lovell said. “We know that inmates who maintain stronger family connections are less likely to return when they get out,” Lovell said.