Missouri becomes 10th state to create prison nurseries with new law, $495,000 budget

(The Center Square) – Children born to inmates in Missouri’s prisons will be allowed to reside with their mothers in the institution under a new law.

Beginning July 1, 2025, the “Correctional Center Nursery Program” will be implemented by the Department of Corrections (DOC) at one or more prisons for women. The program was created in Senate Bill 683 and signed into law by Republican Gov. Mike Parson on Friday.

“The purpose of the correctional center nursery program is for bonding and unification between the mother and child,” the law states. “The program shall allow eligible inmates and children born from them while in the custody of the department to reside together in the institution for up to eighteen months post-delivery.”

The bill’s fiscal note estimated startup costs to convert and equip a prison housing unit, along with staff costs, to be $325,606 during the first year. During the third year and ongoing, the annual cost for staff and operating costs is estimated at $913,174.

The DOC’s 2023 fiscal year budget included $495,438 for the program.

Inmates must meet several requirements to be eligible for the program. They’re not eligible if they pled guilty or were convicted of a dangerous felony or any sexual offense where the victim of the crime was a minor.

The law now requires the division of child support enforcement to collect support payments and forward them to the inmate’s prison banking account.

DOC will accept donations to be used solely for expenses related to operation and maintenance of the program. Financial donations, public assistance or support for a specific inmate or child are to be made through the inmate banking system. No donations of property made on behalf of a specified inmate or child can be used while incarcerated.

The fiscal note reported prison nursery programs are currently operated in nine other states: California, Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, South Dakota, Washington, and West Virginia. Sources quoted in the fiscal note stated approximately 4% of women are pregnant when entering prison.

The bill also provides exemptions from childcare licensing requirements for specific day camps and summer camps. The legislation also expands childcare licensing for licensed family childcare homes.

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