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Chicago Breakthrough: Cook County Jail Starts Unit for Moms-To-Be

Jan 4th, 2011 | Category: Pretrial detention, Women and Jails

Dart InmatesCook County Jail Unveils Wing , Program for Pregnant Inmates
Published : Thursday, 09 Dec 2010, 1:07 PM CST, FOX Chicago News

Chicago – The Cook County Sheriff’s Department is unveiling a new wing at the jail for pregnant inmates. The area will offer special services like nutrition and parenting classes.

Sheriff Tom Dart also said it will include a room where inmates can have visits with their newborns. Dart said many of the women the program will affect will have their children after they leave jail, but the prenatal care they will receive will be the first they ever get.

The units will provide medical treatment and teach inmates how to care for their child before and after birth. Dart said the program will end up saving the taxpayers money by preventing many issues that would send those affected by the program to the hospital. He said it also could work to decrease recidivism.

“It has the humane aspect of it obviously. But the other part is, if these women — and we get a lot of them in here who are pregnant — if they’re given the basics on how to be a good parent, the chances of that child having a good start in life is exponentially increased and self esteem for the woman improves,” Dart said.

Women will get to see their newborns on a case-by-case basis, depending on what they are in jail for and their situation.
Dart also noted that some women in the jail didn’t want the program because it requires hard work from them.

Dart said Commissioner Earlean Collins was instrumental in getting the program going and that Cook is the first jail in the country to have something like it. There was little start-up cost necessary, according to Dart, because the money comes from existing medical budgets.

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