Monday, October 4, 2021
Pennsylvania has introduced a bill seeking dignity for incarcerated women. The bill was sent to the House Judiciary Committee on September 21. An accompanying memo from bill sponsors explains to the members of the house that:
Over the past three decades Pennsylvania has seen a significant increase in the number of incarcerated women. While we believe in supporting a system that serves justice, women who are incarcerated face a number of unique issues regarding their heath and the health of their children. 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.
Through extensive consultation and collaboration with our state Department of Corrections, county wardens, corrections officers, various interest groups, and subject matter experts, we have identified a number of best practices, many of which are already in place, that we believe will not only benefit incarcerated women, but their children, families, and society as a whole. Specifically, our bill will provide for the following well vetted provisions at both the state and county level, with necessary oversight from children and youth services, and limited exceptions where extenuating circumstances and/or capacity constraints prevent safe practice and enforcement. With common sense exceptions in all cases, the bill:
1. Prohibits the shackling of pregnant women.
2. Prohibits solitary confinement of pregnant women.
3. Provides for trauma informed care training of corrections officers interacting with pregnant and postpartum women.
4. Provides for up to three days of post-delivery bonding time between mother and new born child.
5. Provides 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.
6. Prohibits full body searches of incarcerated females by male guards.
7. Provides for appropriate amount of feminine hygiene products at no cost to incarcerated women.
8. Provides for limited coverage of cost to transport individuals to a safe location upon release.
The full text of the bill is available here.