July 4, 2022 - Podcast

Episode 284 — Changing rivers, and help for mothers who give birth in prison

Indiana rivers are expected to receive higher levels of sediment and precipitation in the near future due to the effects of climate change and current land use in the state. That’s why researchers at IU's Environmental Resilience Institute are observing rivers to better understand how they change over time. The researchers are eager to see how rivers achieve their meandering and how sediment moves from hillslopes into rivers and gets carried away. To accurately track this, researchers are making use of drones equipped with special sensors to measure the topography and remove irrelevant information from the vegetation on the surface. So far, the team has conducted more than 25 drone flights over the east and west fork of Indiana’s White River, which have played a crucial role in tracking the natural changes in the river position. They've found that rivers tend to meander because of sediment deposition on the inside of meander bends that pushes the flow against the outside of the bend, causing migration. In another study, the team is using drones to track how often trees fall on hillslopes. When trees fall and uproot, sediment moves downhill into the stream. These data will help the team develop models for how sediment gets from hillslopes to rivers, and then how that sediment affects river meandering. Once this phase of the research is complete, the team plans to focus more on understanding how climate change affects rivers and their flow.

In other news, an innovative program at the IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health is providing support for mothers and babies in prison and a year after release. In partnership with the Indiana Department of Corrections, the "Mothers on the Rise" program provides a coordinated network of support for women who have children in prison and are released to their home communities. It uses a network of relationships with the prison staff, home visit teams, nurse navigators, social workers and community navigators to help women and their babies. Under the new program, when mothers and babies are released, they are connected to local community navigators who provide social support. Navigators are trained in education, health care and social services, and they have a passion to serve mother-baby pairs. They are also trained to understand the needs of traditionally marginalized groups. Navigators are introduced to mothers prior to their release and work closely with them in their home communities. They communicate regularly via texts, phone calls and in-person meetings. Upon release, the mother-baby pair is also provided with $1,000 in basic clothing, hygiene products and infant care supplies. The women also receive a laptop. Program Director Jack Turman, a professor of social and behavioral sciences, says the kind of support provided by "Mothers on the Rise" is essential to reducing the likelihood of rearrest, reconviction or a return to prison. The program is currently in use at the Leath Maternal-Child Health Unit at the Indiana Women’s Prison in Indianapolis. To date, 13 mother-baby pairs have transitioned from the prison nursery to the community. All pairs have remained together in the community post-release. Turman and colleagues recently detailed their efforts at building a successful support program for reentry in the journal Advancing Corrections.