You just left the jail and a friend calls you on your cell. You can’t WAIT to tell her what just happened! No. Wait. Can I talk about this? Well why can’t I?
Well, it is a matter of security and the safety of me, the inmate, the deputy that is with the inmate and the hospital staff.
The longer you work with the jail population, the more you will be asking yourself this question. As much as I know the rules, I still have to catch myself on what I say. You are with a population that the majority of people you are with have never even entered a jail to even visit someone. People are always asking you questions. Some you can answer, some you cannot.
I remember I was with a very well known doctor and he was telling his employees what I do and that I go with the inmates when they give birth. He stopped and said, “Now what hospital do you to go to be with the inmate?” I froze. We are not allowed to tell where they give birth. It is a security issue. And I have this doctor in front of me with his employees around him and trying to figure out how do I answer this without insulting him for not answering. Finally I said, “Well doctor, I would like to tell you, but then I would have to kill you.” That broke the quietness and people giggled – including the doctor.
So what is private? What are you allowed to talk about? This is a general list and will be different from jail to jail.
The names of the inmates we are working with.
The place where they give birth.
The name of the caregiver the inmates see prenatally and also for the birth.
You do not put on social media that you are leaving for the hospital to go be a doula for an inmate.
You don’t put on your Facebook page you just came home from a 30 hour birth with an inmate and put her picture on your page
You can’t teach a class and tell someone so many details about one of the inmates that it just may be very easy to know whom this inmate is..
The part that can be very difficult is with social media and emails. As we know nothing is private. Once it is out there, it is out there. FOREVER! The jail has not told us we cannot put on social media about the inmates, but that falls under not giving out information about the inmate.
Our organization has a Facebook page and we are on Twitter. But the rule that we follow is nothing is ever said while the inmate is still in the hospital. The hospital is not a secure place. This is one of the reasons some jails do not let doulas in. We are not a secure person. I believe that you really have to gain that trust with the jail to be allowed to be a doula for an inmate. We write about a class after it has happened. We write about a birth after the inmate has returned to the jail. We have a policy in our organization that no one is allowed to talk about the jail on his or her personal social media. All of our staff signs a policy and procedure paper just on social media and what is allowed and what is not.
But what CAN I say? There is information you can give. And when people hear what you do, they are going to ask questions. After the class or birth has happened, you can talk about it in general terms just as you would any client.
I often have people want to know if they all take drugs for their birth since they could at the hospital. And I answer them honestly. And the answer is no. We have more women have natural birth that are in jail than we do with our clients on the outside.
I am often asked so what are they in there for? Did they kill someone? We are not allowed to ask the inmate what they are in jail for. But if you know the name of the inmate, it is public knowledge what their crime is. You just have to click on the Internet and you can find out. But who ever you are talking to will not be able to do that because you did not give them the name of the inmate.
Much of what you realize you should or should not be saying on what you see at the jail is just common sense. In some cases, you work closely with the Deputies. Just as you would not want someone to criticize your work, you do not want to criticize their work.
One of our doulas said it best. I just don’t tell anyone anything. This way I know I won’t hurt anyone with my words. I think we also learned that in kindergarten, didn’t we?
How Do You Talk To The Inmate About The Babies Father?
****Disclaimer: This blog is from the perspective of a jail, not a Sate or Federal prison. Protocol will vary from initiation to institution.