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Birth behind bars

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Shenikia Hall (Photo: Caddo Parish Sheriff's Office) Shenikia Hall (Photo: Caddo Parish Sheriff's Office)
When Shenikia Hall appears in Caddo court next week, the pregnant woman will ask the judge to lower her bond so she doesn't have to have her child while in Caddo Correctional Center custody.She's charged with the attempted second degree murder of her boyfriend, Brian Green, and bond is set at $100,000 dollars.

Related article: Domestic dispute in Shreveport ends in stabbing

Pregnancy is supposed to be a celebratory time with friends, family, and baby showers, but for the reality is very different for women on the inside.

"Unfortunately, sometimes you get in a bad situation and they end up incarcerated and stuff," CCC's Sheila Wright said. "We just try to provide them with the best prenatal care we can, and sometimes we're the only prenatal care that they receive."

As health services director, Wright has seen thousands of pregnant women walk their halls.

Women are required to take a pregnancy test upon arrival, but receive all care off-site.

Some women coming through in-take don't realize they're pregnant until the CCC pregnancy test turns positive.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports in a 2004 study, 4% of female state prisoners and 3% of federal inmates said they were pregnant at the time of admission.

In the past year, Wright says there have been around 30 pregnant inmates. When the time comes for birth, authorities take a woman to University Health by CCC transport, using Shreveport Fire or Ballatine in an emergency.

Women are restrained during transportation and a guard is present the entire stay. If violent, the patient remains handcuffed to the side rail until delivery.

Prisoner patients never shares a room with anyone, do not have phones or visitors. Stairwells are locked for infant safety.

During the procedure, experts say she's treated like any other patient.

"They are treated the exact same medical wise, anesthesia wise, and facility wise," University Health's Chasity Teer said. "To me, it's still all the exact same. We still provide them with skin-to-skin, we let them bond with the baby. There are no differences between any civilian delivery and a CCC delivery."

Women spend 24 to 48 hours at University Health after a natural birth, and up to three days for caesarian sections. During that time, she is not allowed to see friends or family but gets pre-natal guidance and usually arranges for a family member or custodian to pick up the child after birth.

"It's more difficult for the mother, obviously being incarcerated," Wright said. "They don't have access to their extended family, the father and things like that. So it's a difficult place to be because you're there by yourself."

Care continues after a woman returns to CCC with the facility's mental health division with councilors that can help treat postpartum depression.

There are also parenting classes available to help prepare a woman to return to her young child.

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