The Bureau of Prisons provides female offenders with programs and services designed to meet their physical, social, and psychological needs. With the expansion of the female inmate population in recent years, the Bureau has worked to enhance programs and institutional services to effectively meet the needs of women. In 2004, the Female Offender Program Branch was established to ensure the development of activities and programs designed to help female inmates cultivate the skills necessary to facilitate successful reintegration into their communities upon release. The Bureau has also made significant decisions regarding institution mission changes that directly affect the Bureau’s female inmate population. For example, in 1993, the Bureau developed and implemented a new designation and classification system for female offenders to account for the fact that female offenders are less likely to be violent or attempt escape. This new classification system resulted in the establishment of more low and minimum security bed space for female offenders.
Education, Recreation and Job Training Opportunities
At facilities for female offenders, the Bureau provides programs and services that are commensurate with those at facilities for male offenders while ensuring that needs specific to the female population are met. For example, educational and recreation programs are available to all female inmates. These programs include literacy and GED classes, college courses, parenting programs, adult continuing education classes and a variety of health, wellness and hobby craft classes. In the area of job training, the Bureau offers vocational training classes and apprenticeship training programs to develop marketable skills that will translate into employment for the women upon release. Vocational programs available in female facilities throughout the Bureau may include accounting, cosmetology, horticulture, business education, building trades, culinary arts and call center training. The Bureau also offers female inmates apprenticeship programs in 40 different trades. The apprenticeship training programs have been accredited by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training. These programs assist in preparing women for a wide range of traditional and non-traditional positions including baker, woodworker, electrician, plumber, painter, bricklayer, dental technician, animal trainer and secretary.
Medical Services for Female Offenders
In addition to the comprehensive healthcare services that the Bureau provides to all inmates, female offenders receive routine breast exams and gynecological exams including pap smears. Mammogram exams are offered to every two years, beginning at the age of 40 and annually if a family history of breast cancer is present.
Birth Control and Pregnancy
The Bureau provides female inmates with medical and social services related to pregnancy, birth control, and child placement. Inmates are medically screened for pregnancy upon admission and are instructed to inform medical staff as soon as they suspect they are pregnant. If necessary, the childbirth takes place at a hospital outside the institution, and arrangements are made with outside social service agencies to aid the inmate in finding an appropriate placement for the child. Newborn children are not permitted to return to the institution with their mothers. They, however, can accompany an adult visitor in accordance with Bureau visiting policy.
The Bureau offers a community residential program called Mothers and Infants Nurturing Together (MINT) for women who are pregnant at the time of commitment. The MINT program is a residential reentry center-based program that promotes bonding and parenting skills for low-risk female inmates who are pregnant.
Women are eligible to enter the program if they are in their last three months of pregnancy, have less than five years remaining to serve on their sentence, and are eligible for furlough. The inmate or a guardian must assume financial responsibility for the child’s medical care while residing at MINT. The mother has three months to bond with the newborn child before returning to an institution to complete her sentence. In select MINT programs, the inmate may stay for an additional period of bonding with the child. The decision to refer an inmate to the MINT program is at the discretion of the inmate’s unit team.
Inmates in this program participate in pre-natal and post-natal programs such as childbirth, parenting, and coping skills classes. In addition to services specifically related to parenting, MINT sites also offer chemical dependency treatment, physical and sexual abuse counseling, budgeting classes, and vocational and educational programs. Prior to the birth, the mother must make arrangements for a custodian to take care of the child. Institution staff, MINT staff, and community social service agencies may aid the inmate with placement.
In accordance with Federal law, the Bureau of Prisons may not use appropriated funds to require any person to perform or facilitate the performance of an abortion. Bureau funds are used to pay for abortion services only when the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus is carried to term or in the case of rape. In all other cases, non-Bureau funds must be obtained to pay for an abortion. In all cases, however, whether the Bureau pays for the abortion or not, funds may be expended to escort the inmate to a facility outside the institution to receive the procedure. Inmates receive medical, religious, and social counseling regarding their decision whether to carry the pregnancy to term or to have an elective abortion. If an inmate decides to have an abortion, arrangements are made for these medical services to be provided in an appropriate clinic outside the institution. Bureau policy provides that employees may decline to participate in the provision of abortion counseling or services.
Mental Health and Drug Abuse Treatment Programs
The Bureau offers mental health and drug abuse treatment programs to meet the needs of the female population. The Resolve Program is one of the many treatment programs offered by Psychology Services which addresses the mental health needs of the female inmate population. Statistics suggest that females tend to have a higher prevalence of, and report more symptoms of, trauma than do males. This program was established to address the unique trauma-related mental health needs of female offenders. Residential and non-residential drug treatment programs are also available to women who have a history of substance abuse.