Pregnant in Prison: What going into labor while incarcerated looks like

BATON ROUGE, La (BRPROUD) — Lanaya Cardwell, a woman facing charges of second-degree murder for allegedly killing her two-year-old daughter, is currently being held in East Baton Rouge Parish Prison while eight months pregnant.

If she doesn’t bond out before her November court date, there is a chance she could go into labor.

Each correctional facility has its own set of guidelines on what to do when an inmate goes into labor, but here in East Baton Rouge Parish, inmates are sent to a hospital and given time with the baby before turning the child over to the state.

“It really depends on where you are and where you are incarcerated as to what kind of pregnancy care you are going to receive,” Co-Founder and Executive Director of Lift Louisiana Michelle Erenberg said.

Erenberg advocates for incarcerated women and their unborn children.

“It’s really important at that moment to think not just about what would be in the best interest of the pregnant person or the new mother but what is in the best interest of the newborn baby,” Erenberg said.

In 2012, Louisiana banned putting restraints on the mother giving birth for the safety of the baby and the inmate, but there are exceptions.

“In general, restraints are not supposed to be used during labor and delivery or transporting a pregnant person to and from a correctional facility,” Erenberg said. “We have heard stories of restraints continuing to be used in some settings but we do understand and we have heard from the Department of Corrections that that is the policy, that restraints in most circumstances not be used.”

A spokesperson with EBR Prison said they take the woman to the hospital to deliver and restraints are not used during delivery. After both mom and baby are cleared medically and discharged from the hospital, the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) would determine placement for the baby, possibly with a family member, but not before the mother holds the newborn infant.

“That attachment is so absolutely critical and we know that has long-term consequences for the health and wellbeing of that child,” Erenberg shared.

Lift Louisiana is working with the Department of Corrections to pilot a ‘doula program’ in hopes of creating a safe delivery process for both the mother and child.

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