IBJ at UIC's School of Public Health

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On September 27, Illinois Birth Justice and UIC’s School of Public Health’s Center for Excellence in Maternal Child Health and Center for Research on Women and Gender co-sponsored a visit to Chicago by Dr. Rebecca Shlafer, an Assistant Professor in the Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Health at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Shlafer’s research focuses on developmental outcomes of children with parents in prison and has led to Minnesota’s first anti- shackling law and the use of doulas in Minnesota prisons. Her current projects include evaluation of a prison-based pregnancy and parenting support program for incarcerated mothers and dissemination of resources to young children with incarcerated parents.

Dr. Shlafer met with students and faculty from the School of Public Health in the morning. In the afternoon, she gave a talk on “Pregnant and Parenting Among Incarcerated Women: From Research to Advocacy”, and she participated in a two-hour session on “Implementing a Prison Doula Project: Illinois Birth Justice and Next Steps for Illinois.”

At the afternoon session, Beth Isaacs spoke about “Women and Incarceration: Why Should We Care?” and Tracy Wilhoite and Kathy Ragland spoke about their experiences teaching weekly classes for county jail inmates who are pregnant or new mothers. Dr. Ellen Mason moderated a panel discussion with Dr. Shlafer, Beth Isaacs, Charlotte Johnson, Tracy Wilhoite, and Kathy Ragland, which led to a lively discussion with attendees from a variety of backgrounds and organizations, including Cook County Department of Corrections, EverThrive Illinois, Cook County Health and Hospitals System, The Ounce of Prevention, The Cook County Department of Public Health, UIC’s School of Public Health, Chicago Volunteer Doulas, United Way of Metropolitan Chicago, and others.

We concluded with a wish to convene stakeholders in the future. Stay tuned. Many thanks to the University of Illinois at Chicago for hosting the event!