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Proposed legislation would keep babies born in Missouri prisons with their mothers

Close-up shot showing a baby lying on its back with head tilted toward the camera. Behind the baby is the mother also lying down with her head turned toward the baby at whom she is looking.
Oleg Sergeichik
Two Missouri state legislators are working to establish nurseries in the state's prisons.

Two legislators say allowing incarcerated women who give birth in prison to keep their babies with them can benefit both child and mother.

Currently, a baby born to a woman in a Missouri prison is taken from the mother, usually within 24 hours, and often is placed in foster care.

Now state Rep. Bruce DeGroot, a Republican from Ellisville, is looking to change that by introducing in the next legislative session a bill to create prison nurseries to keep mothers and their newborns together.

"Study after study shows that babies who can be with their moms have a much better chance at success in later life," DeGroot observes.

Joining him in this effort is Curtis Trent, a Republican from Greene County. DeGroot says asking his fellow Republican to sign on was easy because "we respect human life, we respect human dignity."

There are a number of positive outcomes from keeping incarcerated mother and child together: less and shorter bouts of post-partum depression for the mother, children less likely to suffer symptoms of depression and anxiety, and lower recidivism rates when the mother reenters society.

Other states have these nurseries in place including Nebraska, West Virginia and DeGroot's home state of South Dakota.

"It really speaks to the idea of where we're going as a society," DeGroot said. "These ideas just make sense."

Corrected: November 18, 2021 at 9:34 AM CST
A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled the name of state Rep. Bruce DeGroot.
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