Did you know that many states force pregnant women prisoners to be shackled when they are in labor? And that some states only allow pregnant prisoners minimal, if any, additional nutrition? (The Massachusetts Department of Correction informed the Advocate through spokeswoman Diane Wiffin that its policies with regard to shackling pregnant inmates are "private," but that shackles are not used on prisoners during labor and delivery.)
The special needs of pregnant women and mothers in prison have gotten little attention in the wider society, but dealing with the needs of mothers and mothers-to-be at the Massachusetts Women's Correctional Center in Chicopee is the mission of the Prison Birth Project. The PBP is hosting an unusual series of events this summer to help support its programs, including the doula services it offers incarcerated women in order to give them support and advocacy during pregnancy. The first event, the Secret Cafe, will take place Saturday, June 27. There will be two seatings, one at 6 p.m. and another at 8 p.m.
And we mean secret. You don't find out where the cafe is until you buy your ticket. But hand-prepared local food and beverages will be on the menu at that yet-to-be disclosed location, and there will be live entertainment and "a unique garden atmosphere," according to the PBP. The group is asking for a donation of $15 to $30 per ticket for what it bills as a "one-of-a-kind experience."
The Prison Birth Project helps women in prison—who may be pregnant for the first time, and who often get little information about managing pregnancy—to develop plans for their babies' births and to think about the kinds of medical and emotional assistance they want to help them through that time. It organizes support groups that deal with issues surrounding pregnancy, birth, the post-partum period and mothering; they meet biweekly at the Women's Correctional Center in Chicopee.
Tickets for the Secret Cafe can be purchased in advance at Food for Thought Books in Amherst, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (413) 559-7296. Everyone is welcome, including families with children.