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Professor Suzuki serves as expert to New Mexico Legislature on lactation policies for female inmates

April 28, 2017 - Tamara Williams

Professor Suzuki

During the 2017 New Mexico regular legislative session, Professor Carol Suzuki worked with the New Mexico Breastfeeding Task Force (NMBTF) to advocate for two key breastfeeding-related bills that were passed by the House and Senate.

On March 4, she served as an expert witness to Representative Sarah Maestas Barnes, R - Albuquerque, on the floor of the State’s House of Representatives for HB277. This bill requires correctional facilities to develop and implement policies for lactating inmates, ensuring that babies of incarcerated mothers would have the opportunity to receive their mother’s breastmilk.

On March 12, Suzuki again served as an expert witness, this time to Senator Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D - Albuquerque, who sponsored SB277. Heard before the House Health & Human Services Committee, SB 277 allows courts to consider a woman’s pregnancy and lactation status in determining her eligibility for release, bond, or computation of good time credit.

Although both bills were not signed into law by Governor Martinez before the conclusion of the regular session (and therefore pocked vetoed), Suzuki remains optimistic that female inmates will gain access to lactation services and hopes to see progress by the end of the year. “Lactation policies will be included in the county correctional facilities accreditation standards and the New Mexico Department of Corrections will be looking into establishing lactation policies despite not being mandated to do so,” she explains. “We hope to see some movement on this front by the end of this year.”

Students enrolled in the UNM School of Law’s Community Lawyering Clinic have the opportunity to work with the NMBTF on policy drafting and serve as a resource to people who seek legal assistance and information regarding breastfeeding and lactation rights in public and work settings.

The Community Lawyering Clinic, one of four mandatory clinic sections available to upper division law students, provides outreach legal services in partnership with local community service providers. Prior Community Lawyering Clinic partnerships include the Medical/Legal Alliance for UNM health clinics, social workers, community planners, community activists, and other non-profits at various sites across Albuquerque.