State officials look to spend millions to expand a facility for pregnant inmates

(Ohio) – Ohio officials are looking to spend $2.3 million to expand a facility for pregnant inmates at the Ohio Reformatory for Women (ORW) in Marysville.

The state has announced a desire to build a new 6,680-square-foot single-story structure to house the Achieving Baby Care Success (ABC) Program, which began back in June 2001. Space would include a live-in facility for mothers and their children and would have the capacity for 24 female offenders and two nannies.

The facility would include bedrooms for offenders to reside with their babies, a room for two nannies, a living area and offices for a pediatrician and a social worker. A secured play area will also be outside connected to the building.

Ohio law currently allows a mother to stay with her newborn child in the institution for up to three years after birth.

In a testimony to the House Finance Committee last month, Annetta Chambers-Smith, Director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC), said, “our nursery provides healthcare for the newborn and programming for the mother to learn valuable parenting skills.” The DRC is seeking $1.9 billion for the 2020 fiscal year, a 2.9 percent increase from 2019, and nearly $2 billion in 2021.

Currently, there are 28 pregnant women in prison in Ohio, but many choose not to take part in the nursery program or do not qualify.

In order to qualify, women must have no violent crime, child abuse or child endangerment convictions and their prison sentence must be no longer than 36 months.

Six women are currently in the nursery’s program with their children. The existing nursery holds up to 21 women. Officials explain; however, the current nursery is not ideal for children. The new facility would be a separate entity to ensure family health and growth.


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