Master's Project Title:

Oral Defense: Corrections Officers’ Knowledge and Perspectives of Maternal and Child Health Policies and Programs for Pregnant Women in Prison

MCH Student:

Virginia Pendleton

Date of Defense:

Friday, June 7th, 2019


In response to the dramatic increase in the number of women incarcerated in the United States – and a growing awareness that a small but significant proportion of incarcerated women are pregnant – some prisons have implemented maternal and child health (MCH) policies and programs to support the unique health needs of pregnant women.  Corrections officers (COs) are key stakeholders in the successful implementation of prison policies and programs.  Little empirical research has examined prison COs’ knowledge and perspectives on MCH policies and programs, particularly the impact they have on COs’ primary job responsibility of maintaining safety and security. The objective of this mixed-methods study was to understand COs’ knowledge and perspectives of MCH policies and programs in one state prison, with a specific emphasis on the prison’s doula program.  Thirty-eight COs at a single large, Midwestern women’s prison completed a survey, and eight of these COs participated in an individual qualitative interview.  Results indicate that COs’ perspectives on MCH policies and programs were generally positive.  Most COs strongly approved of the prison doula program and the practice of not restraining pregnant women.  COs reported that MCH policies and programs did not interfere, and in some cases helped, with their primary role of maintaining safety and security.  Findings support expansion of MCH programs and policies in prisons, while underscoring the need to offer more CO training and input during implementation.