Kentucky jailers are supporting a program requiring female convicts of child-bearing age to take a pregnancy test.
The goal of the program is to save the state money by identifying pregnant inmates early so problem pregnancies can be treated. If the pregnancy test is positive, the inmate is sent to the Kentucky Correctional Institute for Women.
The medical director for the Kentucky Department of Corrections said Kentucky jails take in about 6,000 female inmates every year. About 80 percent of those inmates are between 18 and 50-years-old. This means Kentucky administers about 5,000 tests every year.
The state Corrections Department buys the pregnancy tests from a vendor for less than one dollar a test. The Corrections Department distributes them to every jail in the state with instructions on when and how to give the test and what to do if the inmate is pregnant.
Deputy jailer for the Barren County Correction Center, Sharon Houchens said the pregnancy tests are given to the facility as needed. The female inmates take the tests after they get their final sentencing and become a state inmate.
“They may have already been here for two or three weeks as a county inmate before they become state,” Houchens said. She thinks the program is a good idea in taking some of the financial burden off of the county.
“You’ve got their weekly doctor visits, you’ve got their overall pregnancy and so forth,” Houchens said. She said county facilities do get money from the state per day for each inmate but it isn’t near enough to cover these expenses.
“ ... Twenty-nine dollars and sixty cents for housing and one dollar and ninety-one cents for medical,” Houchens said. She said this program will also help with the workload of county jailers.
“A lot of our pregnant women in the county; the county has had special diets; we’ve had to take them to the doctor frequently, so it’s been a lot of expense as far as the deputy’s time, so it will be a lot of work off,” Houchens said.
Heather Ward has been at the Barren County Correction Center since October and was given a pregnancy test. Hers showed up negative but she said she knows women from other facilities that were pregnant and appreciate the extra care.
“I believe they would want to know they were pregnant and move to an institute where they can get their needs
provided,” Ward said.
This new program started about a month ago. Houchens said the Barren County Correction Center has not had any pregnant inmates yet.