Of Los Angeles County’s 50 incarcerated pregnant women, 37 were 17 or 18, and 43 were “crossover” youth, involved in both the county’s probation department and its foster care system.
As the number of women in prisons continues to rise nationwide, the impact of imprisonment on pregnancy can vary greatly.
Los Angeles County now hopes to curb—and eventually end—its incarceration of young pregnant women.
“We are going to put more resources towards keeping pregnant girls out of our custody in the first place,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who co-authored the bill to eventually reduce the county’s tally of incarcerated pregnant women to zero. “However, until all pregnant girls are diverted from detention facilities, we need recognize that those in our custody are also in our care and must have access to the resources they need to stay healthy.”
After evaluating available data and best practices to enhance the health and well-being of incarcerated women and girls, the Department of Health Services released a report finding that incarcerated pregnant girls require special accommodations and specialized mental health care.
“L.A. County has services that can help incarcerated pregnant girls heal from the trauma they’ve endured in their young lives,” said Supervisor and co-author Hilda L. Solis, former Labor Secretary under President Obama. “I am committed to helping these vulnerable girls break free from the cycle of poverty.”
Approval of the motion directs county officials to draft a strategy and benchmark goals to reduce and eliminate its population of incarcerated young women. The motion also requires the establishment of culturally competent policies that grant pregnant women access to mental health services while it better retains the confidentiality of incarcerated youth who file grievances. The report is due in 180 days.
“L.A. County has services that can help incarcerated pregnant girls heal from the trauma they’ve endured in their young lives,” Solis said. “I am committed to helping these vulnerable girls break free from the cycle of poverty.”