A public-private partnership is bringing new pregnancy care services to one of Pennsylvania’s state prisons for a test run.
The initiative will be limited in scope. But a bipartisan group of lawmakers is hoping to enshrine similar programs and funding into state law permanently — and to do it before Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf leaves office in January 2023.
The plan is to bring doula services to pregnant prisoners at Lycoming County’s SCI Muncy, the facility that serves as the processing center for all the women who enter Pennsylvania state prisons. Funded by the nonprofit Tuttleman Foundation, the company Genesis Birth Services will oversee the work with incarcerated parents.
First Lady Frances Wolf, who recently held a public panel on maternal health outcomes during and after prison time, is also taking part in the rollout.
Genesis founder Gerria Coffee says she is currently observing all the births at SCI Muncy herself to “gain a full understanding of he needs and the operations,” and that her organization is conducting doula trainings in Lycoming County, with the goal of eventually having three to five doulas available for work in the prison.
“The pilot [begins when] a person gives birth, and then we will follow the infant and the mother up to one year postpartum, because that is the time period when a person is deemed vulnerable still by the WHO and the CDC,” Coffee said.
She added, she wants to make sure the program “separates the circumstance [of prison], and it really focuses on the person and gives that holistic support.”