A measure to support the health and welfare of incarcerated woman co-sponsored by state Rep Tina Davis (D-Bristol) passed out of the justice committee earlier this month and moves onto the Senate.
State Reps. Morgan Cephas, D-Phila., Tina Davis, D-Bucks, and Mike Jones, R-York, praised the passage of their Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act today in the Judiciary Committee (HB 900).
The bill, which would stabilize how pregnant people are treated in Pennsylvania’s jails and prisons, is now on its way to be heard on the House floor.
The Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act (H.B.900), a bipartisan effort that passed unanimously, would prohibit the shackling of pregnant women, solitary confinement of pregnant women and provides for trauma informed care training of corrections officers interacting with pregnant and postpartum women.
The bill also calls for prohibiting full body searches of incarcerated females by male guards.
“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,” Cephas said. “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, family and society as a whole.
“Specifically, our bill would provide well vetted provisions at both the state and county levels, with necessary oversight from children and youth services, and limited exceptions where extenuating circumstances and/or capacity constraints prevent safe practice and enforcement, along other requirements.”
Cephas explained that the bill would also include three days of post-delivery bonding time between mother and newborn child and accommodation of adequate visitation time between minor children.
“It is critical that we get prenatal, pregnancy and post-natal support to those incarcerated in the commonwealth,” Cephas said. “My peers and I have been fighting for years to put a halt to the degrading treatment of women in penitentiaries.
“We feel reinvigorated and determined to continue this long journey. No one should be deprived of respect. This is a human act. I am glad to say we are moving forward, we are getting closer to the finish line.”
House Democratic Caucus Secretary Tina Davis reflected on the progress of the bill and reaffirmed her committed to this crusade.
“We have finally come to a point where we can move this important bill through committee and on to the full House for a vote, where it belongs,” Davis said.
“From there, it will be on the Senate to see the dignity and humanity in this legislation and get it on the governor’s desk. I pledge to continue advocating for the bill’s future as it journeys through the Capitol,” she said.
Jones highlighted that the bill also represents an acknowledgment that prisons were not designed with women in mind and should be extended compassionate considerations.
“We need to extend grace and to treat these people the way we would want our wives and sisters and daughters to be treated,” Jones said. “I hope we get it done this year and I ask for everybody’s support on the bill.”