Inmates and visitors at Logan Correctional Center now will be allowed to breastfeed their infants during family visits, after a recently-released mother raised concerns about a previous ban at the facility.
Emily French gave birth to her son in February 2019 while serving an approximately seven-month sentence at Logan Correctional Facility in Lincoln. Ms. French nursed her son during the short period of time she was able to spend with him before the two were separated. After that, Ms. French regularly pumped breast milk, which family members arranged to collect and deliver to feed her infant son.
But when Ms. French’s aunt brought the baby to see his mother at Logan, the family was told that she would not be allowed to breastfeed her son during their visits.
“It was upsetting and painful. Seeing and holding my son triggered a physical reaction and I produced breast milk. It was cruel that instead of being able to bond with my son, I was forced to go into a bathroom and express the milk into a sink. I was sad and depressed,” said Ms. French.
After Ms. French was released on parole in May 2019, lawyers at the ACLU of Illinois contacted the Illinois Department of Corrections to express concerns about this harsh and unfair policy and its impact on breastfeeding parents like Ms. French. The ACLU also voiced concerns that the ban violated the Illinois Right to Breastfeed Act, which guarantees that a parent who chooses to breastfeed has the right to nurse their infant in anylocation – public or private – where they are otherwise authorized to be. In June, IDOC agreed to revise its policies to allow parents to breastfeed their infants during visits to the facility. IDOC has now amended the visitation guidelines on its website and the Logan Correctional Center policies to permit inmates and visitors to breastfeed their children during visits.
“We welcome this change by the Department of Corrections and look forward to its immediate implementation,” said Amy Meek, Senior Staff Attorney, ACLU of Illinois. “Breastfeeding is a fundamental and personal reproductive decision protected by state law, including when a parent is incarcerated. It is time for the Department – and all entities – to recognize and accommodate the rights of parents who breastfeed in Illinois. We are happy for Ms. French that her story has helped make this important change for women incarcerated at Logan now and in the future.”
“It was great to be reunited with my son and I will never do anything in my life again to risk being separated from my child. But what happened to me should not happen to other mothers, no matter if they are in custody or not. I’m glad to see that the policy will change,” said Ms. French.