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2015: Month by Month

For the past five years, our project has grown, reaching women within our state and beyond. By the close of 2015 our staff had reached more than 1,000 incarcerated mothers. Thank you to all of you who continue to support our mission of working in compassionate solidarity with incarcerated mothers to create community, opportunity, and change.

Here is what we were up to over the past year:

JANUARY We created a webinar to share some ideas about how to start a Prison Doula Project.

FEBRUARY Simone Weichselbaum from the Marshall Project came to interview the staff for a feature story on the Marshall Project. We ate Thai sandwiches in Stadium Village, she was frightened by the cold, and told us stories about her adventures in corrections from around the country.

MARCH The Association of America University Women gave us a grant out of their Action Fund and asked us to speak at their monthly meeting. Thank you AAUW!!

We were asked to review a manuscript of a book called Raising Heaven about a mother who gives birth in prison. Thank you Patrick Jones for the opportunity!

Erica and Rebecca provided testimony at the State Capitol to advocate for funding for birth birth work. Thank you Senator Katie Sieben for your support in this effort and to Julie Colby for some amazing testimony. Also, thank you to the Children's Defense Fund of Minnesota and Susan Lane from the Minnesota Better Birth Coalition for your guidance and wisdom during this process.

APRIL The Marshall Project article came out and was also published on Refinery 29's website

Reuben Rosario's article in St. Paul's Pioneer Press was published discussing the benefits of doulas. We started to plan our summer road trips to find doulas to begin reaching into our rural jails.

MAY Isis Rising: A Prison Doula Project officially becomes The Minnesota Prison Doula Project and settles into their new home at the University of Minnesota. Read the press release here and more information about the changes here. Erica and Rae searched the countryside for a central location to hold our doula training/retreat in the fall. We found a place in Maple Lake, Minnesota called Camp Courage.

JUNE We started to get settled into our new office at the University of Minnesota, Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA.)

We worked with Brittney Volker in Northwestern Minnesota to help with doula recruitment in the area. She lives in a small town west of Alexandria, Minnesota.

We were interviewed for a podcast called Correctional Nursing Today: Helping Pregnant Inmates: The Minnesota Prison Doula Project. Thank you Lorry Schoenly for the opportunity! JULY On July 1, 2016 additional anti-shackling legislation went into effect, extending the reach of the law to all the county jail and juvenile facilities in our state. We hit the road and went to find doulas in the Duluth area.

AUGUST Next we stopped in Walker, Minnesota to visit jail administers at the Cass County Jail.

Fellow in this picture is not a jail administrator!

Next stop on that same road trip was Bemidji where we met with administrators at the Beltrami County Jail and had a doula meet up.

We were invited by the Alabama Department of Corrections to tour Tutwiler Women's Prison, meet with pregnant and postpartum women, and give a talk to administrators about our work in Minnesota. They plan to bring a similar program to Alabama. We have been talking with some local doulas as they work to make a Prison Doula Program a reality in Alabama, we hope to offer a training to them in the very near future! Fingers crossed, prayers please!

To round out our busy summer the President of the University of Minnesota's wife Karen Kaler hosted an event at the President's house called Women, Wine and Wise Words. It was a great evening with lots of networking and awareness.

SEPTEMBER Both Erica and Rae were recognized by the Childbirth Collective with a 2015 Star Award. It was such an honor to be recognized by our birth community with this award!

OCTOBER Thank you to the Optimal Outcomes in Maternal Health Conference for selecting us as a highlighted organization for 2015.

The MN Birth and Baby Expo presented us with the Best of the Twin Cities Award, thank you!

Presented information and outcomes about our work at Minnesota's Fall Correctional Healthcare Conference with Dr. Rebecca Shlafer. Colleen Bell from Hamline University asked us to come back again this year to speak to her Engendering Justice class.

NOVEMBER We were asked to be the Keynote Speakers at Macalester College during their Reproductive Justice Week. We brought Clara and Sonja from Ahavah Birth Works and Akhmiri from The Cultural Wellness Center to share community resources with interested students.

15 new prison doulas were trained to work in different parts of the state, and joined all current staff for 24 hours packed with great speakers, learning and networking. We all stayed in a cabin together at a summer camp in Maple Lake, MN.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE YEAR One of our clients was approved to have a hospital grade breast pump at the prison so she could "pump and dump" her milk in an effort to keep her body lactating so she can breastfeed upon release. The state prison we work at released a Fact Sheet on "Doulas and Pregnant Offenders"

DECEMBER Erica participated on a panel at Wilder Foundation with the Strengthening Families Affected by Incarceration Collation. The topic was: Mental Health Outcomes of Youth with an Incarcerated Parent - Panel discussion Dr. Langworthy at the University of Minnesota offered to come shoot a video for a Youtube fundraising event called Project for Awesome. We had a lot of fun with the shoot and we were happy to have a video that we can share with others. Watch the video below!

We were selected to receive a donation from the Unity Church congregation from the weekly offering totaling $2,018. We are so grateful for the generous contribution to our work!

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