Gov. Walz signs Healthy Start Act into law to support the health of incarcerated mothers and children

Submitted photo Gov. Walz signing the Healthy Start Act

“The first-in-the-nation Healthy Start Act does what’s right for mothers and their children by keeping them healthy, and keeping them together,” said Governor Tim Walz. He signed the Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) Healthy Start Act into law, providing new resources to support the health and wellbeing of incarcerated mothers and their newborn babies.

“This historic bill was made possible by the tireless, bipartisan work of the Department of Corrections, legislative leaders, advocates, and mothers who shared their stories and fought for the wellbeing of their kids. I am so proud to celebrate this accomplishment and sign the Healthy Start Act into law,” said Walz.

“Every child deserves a healthy start. We listened to incarcerated moms on how we could support them and their babies through pregnancy, birth, and post-partum—and their stories became the bipartisan women-led Healthy Start Act that was signed into law,” said Lieutenant Governor Flanagan. 

“I had the opportunity to hear these stories firsthand with Representative Jaime Becker Finn in 2019. And now, I am so grateful for her leadership, and for the leadership of all the women who came together to get this done. This is what happens when you center the voices of women at the decision-making table,” said Lt. Gov. Flanagan. “Minnesota is the better for it. I am so proud of this historic policy that will improve the lives of moms and babies in our state.”

The Healthy Start Act allows the Commissioner of Corrections to place women who are pregnant or immediately postpartum into community alternatives such as halfway houses, supervise them in accordance with current statute, and provide them treatment and programming in the placement location for the duration of their pregnancy and for up to one year post-birth to allow for the child to be near their mother for the first year of their lives.

When newborn babies are removed from their mothers so quickly after birth, babies and their mothers have minimal time to interact and bond. There are multifaceted societal and fiscal benefits for keeping the mother and newborn together, including reduced recidivism, re-entry support for individuals being released into the community, improved parenting, enhanced child wellbeing, and community involvement.

The Healthy Start Act is a bipartisan piece of legislation in both the House and the Senate. Led by Representative Jaime Becker-Finn, the Healthy Start Act is the first an all-women-sponsored House bill with co-authors from both parties. In the Senate, Senator Kiffmeyer is the chief author of the legislation, and co-authors include Senator Karin Housley, Senator Michelle Benson, Senator Sandra Pappas, and Senator Eric Pratt, who represents the district with the only women’s prison in the state.

Attachment: Photo of Governor Walz signing the Healthy Start Act.