In Virginia, it is standard practice to separate children born in prison from their mothers. After female inmates give birth in a hospital, someone else has to take guardianship of the baby.
Virginia prison officials want to end that practice by opening a nursery in one of their women’s prisons, the Virginia Mercury reports.
The proposal is part of the Department of Corrections’ gender responsivity plan, which starts next month, when 300 inmates across the state will be moved to the same facility to consolidate operations. Currently, women prisoners are spread across four locations.
Department spokeswomen Lisa Kinney told the Virginia Mercury that four women in their custody have given birth this year and another is pregnant right now.
Though the proposal is not finalized, it calls for women who enter prison while pregnant to keep their babies with them in the nursery as long as the parent is expected to be released before the child is 18 months old.
In addition to the nursery, the new consolidated facility will provide services like women’s nutrition counseling and gender-specific programming.
The DOC has come under fire recently for its treatment of women. A federal judge recently ruled that Fluvanna Correction Center’s medical treatment for women was so poor it violated their constitutional rights and ordered the DOC to enact reforms.
DOC is appealing that ruling and said the prison nursery plan has nothing to do with it.