Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation funds Michigan Prison Doula Initiative

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation awarded one of two $1,000 mini-grants to the Michigan Prison Doula Initiative on November 5, 2017.

 Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Jacqueline Williams and Emily Sluiter of the Michigan Prison Doula Initiative with their grant money.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Jacqueline Williams and Emily Sluiter of the Michigan Prison Doula Initiative with their grant money.

The Michigan Prison Doula Initiative (MPDI) is a start-up nonprofit that seeks to support incarcerated pregnant mothers during their prenatal, labor, and postpartum process through doula support, childbirth education, and postpartum visitation coordination. Women who are pregnant and incarcerated represent one of the most vulnerable factions of our community. Incarcerated mothers are often affected by poverty, racism, domestic violence, and drug addiction. Therefore, pregnancies are often high-risk to mother and child, and marred by lack of adequate prenatal care.

MPDI seeks to mitigate some of these effects by providing an experienced doula for each eligible mother, as well as full-spectrum childbirth and nutritional education classes. After the birth, MPDI seeks to work with the Michigan Department of Corrections and Catholic Social Services to allow for more visitation between mother and infant, creating opportunities for bonding and breastfeeding when available. Elsewhere, these efforts have been shown to reduce recidivism rates, strengthen the mother-child bond, and help reintegrate mothers back into their communities upon release. MPDI’s ultimate goal is to train mothers post-release to work within MPDI in some capacity, offering no- or low-cost doula and childbirth education training as a means to widen employment opportunities for interested mothers. MPDI is in discussions with Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility to launch a pilot program.

MPDI co-founder Jacqueline Williams is an activist, mother, and writer from southeast Michigan. Although she and her collaborators are experienced doulas, no one in MPDI has ever worked as a prison doula. Therefore, MPDI doulas will use their Awesome Foundation grant funds to attend a prison doula training hosted by the Prison Birth Project in Massachusetts this winter. They also hope to attend a reproductive justice conference hosted by Hampshire College next spring. In the meantime, MPDI is gathering childbirth and nutritional education materials to send into the prison, as well as assessing the cost of textbook provisions.

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation is the Ann Arbor chapter of the Boston-based micro-philanthropic organization known as the Awesome Foundation. Each fully autonomous chapter supports awesome projects through micro-grants, usually given out monthly. These micro-grants, $1000 or the local equivalent, come out of the pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.