SAINT PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota will become the first state in the U.S. to stop the practice of separating mothers in prison from their newborns thanks to a new law.
Gov. Tim Walz signed the Minnesota Department of Corrections Healthy Start Act into law in May, which is set to provide new resources for incarcerated moms and their babies.
The law is set to go into effect in July, the Star Tribune reports.
The law will allow prison officials to place women who are pregnant or have just given birth into community alternatives such as halfway houses.
At these locations, officials will supervise the women and provide treatment to them for the duration of their pregnancies and for up to a year post-birth to allow for the children to be near their mothers for the first year of their lives.
“When newborn babies are removed from their mothers so quickly after birth, babies and their mothers have minimal time to interact and bond,” wrote the governor’s office in a statement.
The governor’s office says there are multifaceted societal and fiscal benefits for keeping the mother and newborn together, including reduced recidivism, re-entry support for individuals being released into the community, improved parenting, enhanced child wellbeing, and community involvement.
The law passed with bipartisan support in both the state’s House and Senate.
“The first-in-the-nation Healthy Start Act does what’s right for mothers and their children by keeping them healthy, and keeping them together,” said Gov. Walz. “This historic bill was made possible by the tireless, bipartisan work of the Department of Corrections, legislative leaders, advocates, and mothers who shared their stories and fought for the wellbeing of their kids. I am so proud to celebrate this accomplishment and sign the Healthy Start Act into law.”
Currently, women in the state carry out their pregnancy terms in prison, give birth in a hospital, and return to prison two to three days after giving birth, according to a handout from the state Senate.