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Making the case for innovative reentry employment programs: previously incarcerated women as birth doulas – a case study

Monica R. McLemore (University of California, San Francisco, California, USA)
Zakeya Warner Hand (University of California, San Francisco, California, USA)

International Journal of Prisoner Health

ISSN: 1744-9200

Article publication date: 11 September 2017




The purpose of this paper is to make a case for novel and innovative reentry programs focused on women of color and to describe policy recommendations that are necessary to support the sustainability of these programs and in turn the success of the women who participate in them.


A review and analysis of the literature that described job-training opportunities specifically targeted to women exiting jail and the impact on recidivism provided limited information. The authors developed, implemented, and evaluated doula training program for low-income and women of color to determine if birth work could provide stable income and decrease recidivism.


Training low-income formerly incarcerated women to become birth doulas is an innovative strategy to solve employment barriers faced by women reentering communities from jail. Realigning women within communities via birth support to other women also provides culturally relevant and appropriate members of the healthcare team for traditionally vulnerable populations. Doulas are important members of the healthcare workforce and can improve birth outcomes. The authors’ work testing doula training, as a reentry vocational program has been successful in producing 16 culturally relevant and appropriate doulas of color that experienced no re-arrests and to date no program participant has experienced recidivism.


To be successful, the intersections of race, gender, and poverty, for women of color should be considered in the design of reentry programs for individuals exiting jail. The authors’ work provided formerly incarcerated and low-income women of color with vocational skills that provide consistent income, serve as a gateway to the health professions, and increase the numbers of well-trained people of color who serve as providers of care.



The authors thank the Birth Justice Project and Black Women Birthing Justice for their leadership in this work. The authors also acknowledge funding from the Alameda County Public Health Department, Contract No. 1IIR-08-191 A122424. Warner Hand was supported by NIH Grant No. 5R25CA078583 to the Minority Training Program in Cancer Control Research and Health Disparities.


McLemore, M.R. and Warner Hand, Z. (2017), "Making the case for innovative reentry employment programs: previously incarcerated women as birth doulas – a case study", International Journal of Prisoner Health, Vol. 13 No. 3/4, pp. 219-227.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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