What we do

Minnesota Prison Doula Project

Here is Project Director, Erica Gerrity talking about the program in 2013:

 Here is a radio show we did about about the project in 2011:

We originally named our project after the beautiful goddess Isis:
The Goddess Isis represents faithfulness, compassion, healing, and the power of restorative love. Her love for humanity and her compassion towards our sorrows offer hope after loss, and a promise to our spirits that there is strength in moving onward even in adversity.
"Cease your tears now, for I have come to help you. I looked down and saw the sorrows of your life. All things will soon change for you, as under my watchful light your life is restored, renewed." ‐Patricia Monaghan

Our project is a prison‐based pregnancy, birth, and parenting program provided to incarcerated women at Shakopee Women’s Prison and two county jails. The program includes individualized support for expectant incarcerated mothers along with a mothering group facilitated by our doulas, providing support during birth along with the education and skills they need to be stronger, more connected mothers.

We have developed two different curriculums for our groups. One for our "New Moms Group" open to pregnant women and mothers with new babies up to age one and "Mothering Inside" open to all incarcerated mothers.

Our Philosophy

  • We believe that we are all connected and part of a whole community, and through supporting those in need, we can better the quality of life for all.
  • We believe that all women deserve to make informed decisions about their bodies and their children.
  • We believe that all humans have the capacity to change, grow, and transform through the birth process.
  • We believe all women deserve the support of another woman at the time of her birth.
  • We believe that traditions of female labor support improve the outcomes of labor and delivery.
  • We believe that positive birth experiences contribute to improved bonding between mother and child and that this in turn reduces the likelihood of future abuse and neglect of that child.
Project Objectives 
  • Reduce recidivism 
  • Provide doula services
  • Reduce involvement in child protective services
  • Reduce rates of postpartum depression 
Why a Prison Birth Project?
Since 1977, the female prison population has increased by 872% (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2008). Over 85% of the women in prison were the primary caregivers to their children before incarceration, and approximately 25% of women in prison have either given birth at some point during the year prior to or are pregnant at the time of their arrest (U.S. Department of Justice).These women have little access to services or rehabilitation related to birth preparation and parenting while in prison.
Labor, delivery, and birth rarely involves family, friends, or support, and most often consists of the woman being searched, shackled, and taken to a hospital under the watch of guards. Their babies are taken away from them soon afterwards. Some mothers will not see their children again then until their release; some may never see them again. These women experience shame, powerlessness, and fear during labor, and are left exposed and likely to suffer to postpartum depression, life‐long parent‐child attachment issues, and an overwhelming insecurity in their ability to be a successful parent.

What We Do

We provide client‐directed care and education through a multi‐disciplinary team approach involving doulas, mental health practitioners, nurses, nutritionists, midwives, prenatal and parent educators. We provide the tangible life skills required to be a mother along with emotional and personal support necessary to teach mother/baby bonding from the prenatal period, break the cycle of child abuse and neglect, and prepare the incarcerated women to be capable and confident mothers as their children grow up.
We also aim to increase reunification of female prisoners and their families, with the goal of reducing recidivism among the women, and increasing success among their children.

How We Do It

Minnesota Prison Doula Project is comprised of two interrelated components. First, women participate in one of two educational groups, New Moms Group-open to pregnant and mothers who have given birth in the last year or Mothering Inside, open to all mothers. This weekly program, conducted in two‐hour sessions, is facilitated by a doula and a child birth educator. Second, women who are currently pregnant are also invited to participate in the Doula Program, where they can meet with a doula individually at least once per month. These meetings involve prenatal education and birth planning.

During labor, the doula will meet an expectant mother at the local hospital and remain with her throughout the labor, birth, and immediately postpartum. She is also present with the mother at the hospital during the time of separation from her baby, a time most feared by women in our groups. Following the birth and separation visit the doula will meet with a mother at least twice in order to provide postpartum support after she has returned to the correctional facility.

Community-University Research Partnership

In partnership with Dr. Rebecca Shlafer (Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota), we are conducting ongoing research and evaluation of Minnesota Prison Doula Project. In addition to collecting information from doulas and women about their experiences in the program, we are also assessing birth outcomes (e.g., delivery method, gestational age, birth weight.) Our initial results indicate that doula care for incarcerated women may be a promising approach to improving maternal health and birth outcomes.


Together with the Minnesota Better Birth Coalition and the Children's Defense Fund of Minnesota we created a strategy with stories and research to write and pass legislation.
The law prohibits the use of restraints on incarcerated women during pregnancy, birth and the first three days postpartum, provides pregnant and postpartum women access to prenatal and parenting education and improved healthcare. It's also the first anti shackling law to include a provision that allows incarcerated pregnant women the right to access a doula for their pregnancy and birth.


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