Current Issues Pregnancy and Birth: Support for mothers during and after incarceration

Instructor Name: 
Alissa Leavitt
Course Description: 

Course Description: Students will work alongside the Family Preservation Project to examine pregnancy, birth, and postpartum support while incarcerated.  Students will discuss perspectives, resources and policies that impact the physical and emotional experience of parenthood while in custody.  Additionally, support services available to families, and children of incarcerated parents will be explored.

Our community partner will be the Family Preservation Project as we work to address prenatal and postpartum support for women during and after incarceration.  We will work with the FPP and possibly also the Department of Corrections and Coffee Creek Correctional Facility to create a needs assessment for mothers, staff and hospitals.  Additionally we will examine models from around the world be assist wtih improving prenatal and postpartum support education, resources and services for families during incarceration. 

This capstone aims to help students understand the needs and issues surrounding the topic of the incarceration of mothers and their families.  We work alongside the community partner to hear the needs expressed by mothers and families. We research and collaborate with others involved in supporting individuals at this time and examine/develop solutions (small and step by step as they may be, that can grow and expand overtime) to mitigate the impacts of incarceration on all. 

By the end of this course, students will be able to…..


  1. Explain the physiological, economic, environmental and community health benefits of a supportive birthing and postpartum environment. (Critical thinking, Ethics, Agency, and Community)

  2. Discuss ways in which birth and breast milk provision is or is not supported by medical practices, correctional institutional policies and facilities, community support and cultural norms. (Critical thinking, Diversity, Equity and Social Justice, Ethics, Agency, and Community)

  3. Identify birth and lactation/postpartum resources available to mothers while incarcerated and be able to discuss factors affecting access and utilization. (Critical thinking, Diversity, Equity and Social Justice)

  4. Explore birth and breastfeeding perspectives within your personal community and reflect on factors that influence birth and postpartum outcomes. (Critical thinking, Ethics, Agency, and Community) 

  5. Utilize research methods to help the community partner answer questions concerning the need for, and barriers to, accessing prenatal, birth and postpartum education and support. (Communication, Critical thinking, Diversity, Equity and Social Justice)

  6. Develop communication skills and facilitate information sharing between the community partner, affected institutions and the public (Communication)

  7. Analyze the factors impacting rates of incarceration and their relationship to birth and health outcomes (Critical thinking, Ethics, Agency, and Community, Diversity, Equity and Social Justice)

  8. Organize and communicate project results to the community partner. (Communication)



Project Description: 

Students will work alongside the Family Preservation Project to examine pregnancy, birth, and postpartum support while incarcerated.

Students can expect to engage with the community partner in furthering work from earlier capstones and in the development of new resources/materials to assist with expanding support for mothers and their children impacted by incarceration.  Examples of this work include: the development of tool kit materials for educators to support children of incarcerated parents; research into models/policies/programs for women and infants during incarceration . Students will collaborate with youth/families previously impacted by incarceration to identify and build on resource or advocacy material development.   All project work is compiled, including the  identification of insights and recommendations, and presented to the community partners and impacted or interested groups which may include elected officials, organizations from other states (Department of Corrections, non-profits, etc) and families with lived experience. 

Please note: In the event that students are able to work with moms currently incarcerated at Coffee Creek CF, students will need to complete a background check. 

Additionally, while most work will be completed during class time, there may be 1-2 days where some (or all) students may need to be off campus, including one Saturday in early-mid May to conduct a focus group, or to visit Coffee Creek.