LOS ANGELES, CA – Of the 50 pregnant youth incarcerated last year in Los Angeles County, 37 were between the ages of 17 and 18. Sixty-eight percent were involved in both the Los Angeles County Probation Department and the Department of Children and Family Services’ foster care system. In response, today the Board of Supervisors approved a motion authored by Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, and co-authored by Supervisor Janice Hahn, to reduce and eventually end the incarceration of pregnant youth.
“Much has been done to enhance the care and treatment of adult women who are incarcerated and pregnant. Today, we turn our attention to incarcerated pregnant girls by improving the care they receive while in our custody,” said Supervisor Solis. “Whenever possible, these young girls should be given the tools and skills they need to successfully be diverted back to the community so they can safely parent and finish their education. These young mothers are not forgotten.”
“We are going to put more resources towards keeping pregnant girls out of our custody in the first place,” said Supervisor Hahn. “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”
On Feb. 13, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved Supervisor Solis’ motion that directed the Department of Health Services (DHS) to thoroughly evaluate available data and best practices that enhance the health and well-being of pregnant and incarcerated women and girls.
On July 24, DHS released its report, which found that incarcerated pregnant girls require specialized mental health services, as well as other accommodations that include additional bedding and visitation with their newborns. Studies have shown that close, intimate contact between a baby and its mother is essential to create and sustain the mother-child bond, and provides additional physical and mental healing benefits.
“LA County has services that can help incarcerated pregnant girls heal from the trauma they’ve endured in their young lives,” said Supervisor Solis. “I am committed to helping these vulnerable girls break free from the cycle of poverty.”
Today’s action directs County Departments to report back in 180 days with a draft strategy with metrics and benchmark goals that would help reduce, and eventually, end the incarceration of pregnant youth through diversion programs and other methods, in collaboration with community-based organizations.
The motion also requires County Departments to establish culturally competent policies and procedures outlining how incarcerated girls can access mental health services unique to pregnant and parenting incarcerated youth. These written policies will address delivery and postpartum visitations, and options for breastfeeding. Today’s motion also directs County Departments to enhance procedures for filing grievances that retain the confidentiality of incarcerated youth.
Students at the UCLA School of Law Youth and Justice Clinic assisted with the research for this motion. The clinic aims to explore issues within the juvenile justice system and identify solutions through system reform, law and public policy.
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