The Lead

Senate committee advances bill to establish protections for pregnant incarcerated people

By: - December 11, 2023 6:02 pm
Close-up of a pregnant woman's belly in the hospital bed with catheter in hand

(Getty Images)

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously Monday to advance legislation to establish protections for pregnant and postpartum incarcerated people in Pennsylvania. 

House Bill 900, known as the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act, was sponsored by state Reps. Morgan Cephas (D-Philadelphia), Mike Jones (R-York), and Tina Davis (D-Bucks).

“Despite being incarcerated, these women are still our mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters, and it is in everyone’s best interest to ensure we treat them with dignity,” Cephas said in a memo introducing the bill.

The legislation would prohibit the shackling of pregnant women, and prohibit solitary confinement of pregnant women while incarcerated, and provide up to three days of post-delivery bonding time between a mother and newborn. It also would: 

  • Provide trauma-informed care training for corrections officers interacting with [pregnant people],
  • Prohibit full body searches of incarcerated females by male guards,
  • Provide for accommodation of adequate visitation time between minor children and incarcerated individuals (male or female) who were the sole legal guardian of those minor children at the time of their arrest,
  • Provide for appropriate amount of feminine hygiene products at no cost to incarcerated women, 
  • And provide for limited coverage of the cost of transporting individuals to a safe location upon release.

While the lawmakers said the bill would establish these protections, it does allow for “common sense” exceptions created in collaboration with the Department of Corrections, county wardens, corrections officers, and other groups. 

A similar effort to improve the rights of incarcerated people passed Allegheny County Council last week, which approved a provision to pay incarcerated workers in the county jail as part of the county’s 2024 budget. 

The bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

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