How Do You Prepare A Doula Or Childbirth Educator For Their First Jail Visit?

You have been going to the jail to teach childbirth, parenting or other classes for a few years.  We do not realize it, but we have become so used to the jail environment; the slamming doors, being searched, and waiting for what at times seems like a life time for a door to open so you can get from point A to point B. But, if this is your first time, it can be (and is) very intimidating. Your new educator or doula needs to be prepared, and you can help her.

When someone starts teaching with our organization, we first have an orientation meeting with us at our office. They receive a binder that includes all of the subjects we teach, any materials we give to the inmate, plus the policies and procedures they must follow at the jail and at births, and the importance of confidentiality outside of the jail when talking about the work they do.

To help him or her retain all of the information we give them, people in the organization receive a jail manual that contains all of this information.

We also share with them a few things they may see at the jail and sounds they will hear. You also want to make sure they do understand the dress code for the jail. 

The first time they go with us to the jail, we let them know ahead of time, this is a time for you to take everything in.  We let them know they will not be teaching or be involved in conversations with any of the inmates. For you, this class will be two classes.  One you are talking almost constantly to your new educator and the other the class you will be teaching to your inmates.

All of the things that you do without even thinking, you need to explain in as much detail as you can literally from the time you step in the building.  For us, it starts with what we are allowed to bring in of personal nature.  And where do you put your car keys?

Explain how they have to sign in.   Why in the world is it important to write clearly? (The answer is one of the “just in case” problems that could happen in the jail, a lock down and they need to know where all people are in the jail)  I don’t know about you, but if something happens in the jail, I want them to be able to find me!

I believe one of the most important things that she will need to know is where to stand and wait and near what door.  It is important that she knows how important it is to be out of the way of the deputy.  The deputy’s first priority is not to make sure you get to your programs room and to have the pregnant women in there for you ASAP.  They are there keeping you safe and keeping the jail safe.

This is a subject that I believe that is the hardest to teach anyone new that comes into the program.  They are not waiting for you to come and get the girls in there in your room as soon as you get there.  This is one of the things you have to look at from their perspective.  They are having to move inmates. 

Each time an inmate is moved, it has to go into the computer.  The girl has to come out of her cell/pod.  Each girl has to be searched.  Another deputy has to walk them to the room you are in.  This process could take 10 minutes and I have seen it take 30 minutes.  That means your class time was just cut almost in half.  Explain to the new educator that you have to think on your feet.  You may have to completely change what you were going to teach.  

Is it a different world?  Yes.  It is the inmate’s world. And in the inmate’s world are the Deputies. Deputies that are underpaid overworked and understaffed watching out for your safety, their safety and the inmate’s safety. 

Again, you have been doing this for a few years.  For the new person you just brought on your team, it is a whole new world to her.  And she has to learn it now. 

Can you really talk about what you see and hear in jail? I look forward to sharing my opinion with you in my next blog.  Meanwhile go to www.birthbeindbars.com website and www.facebook.com/birthbehindbars and discover more stories. 

****Disclaimer: This blog is from the perspective of a jail, not a Sate or Federal prison.  Protocol will vary from initiation to institution.