HARRISBURG – Reps. Mike Jones (R-York) and Lori Mizgorski (R-Allegheny) have introduced legislation with Reps. Morgan Cephas (D-Philadelphia) and Tina Davis (D-Bucks) that aims to support incarcerated women.
Pennsylvania has seen a significant increase in the number of incarcerated women in recent years. “This issue transcends partisanship and politics,” said Jones. “While these women need to serve their time like anyone else, they remain mothers, wives, sisters and daughters, and we should treat them with the same dignity we would our own.”
Through extensive consultation and collaboration with the Department of Corrections, county wardens, corrections officers, various interest groups and subject matter experts, a list of best practices was developed that would benefit incarcerated women, their children and their families. Many of these practices are already in use—this legislation would formalize them in statute.
“Women have unique needs and we must ensure that those needs are met for women who are incarcerated,” said Mizgorski. “Every woman deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.”
This bill would 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:
• Prohibits the shackling of pregnant women.
• Prohibits solitary confinement of pregnant women.
• Provides for trauma-informed care training of corrections officers interacting with pregnant and postpartum women.
• Provides for up to three days of post-delivery bonding time between mother and newborn child.
• 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.
• Prohibits full body searches of incarcerated females by male guards.
• Provides for appropriate amount of feminine hygiene products at no cost to incarcerated women.
• Provides for limited coverage of cost to transport individuals to a safe location upon release.
“When we talk about the health and well-being of women, we mean all women and femme identifying individuals including incarcerated women,” Cephas said. “We stand alongside one another today to send a message to our colleagues that dignity for incarcerated women transcends county and party lines and is an issue the state legislature should get behind. Our mothers, daughters and sisters deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and should not be forced to face inhumane treatment such as being shackled while giving birth or being denied necessary feminine hygiene or incontinence products. We must codify current state policy and enact this legislation to help prevent further mental and physical health implications for all of Pennsylvania’s incarcerated women, their children and families.”
“This legislation is the culmination of many voices who have been fighting for years for the health and well-being of incarcerated women. Depriving pregnant post-partum women of basic care or failing to provide the appropriate amount of feminine hygiene products – these practices are nothing short of unethical,” said Davis. “It is time to once and for all eliminate these outdated and cruel institutional methods against women.”
These best and most reasonable practices should be mandatory for all facilities and would ensure that our Commonwealth is not only just, but compassionate.
Representative Mike Jones
93rd Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Kevin DiGuiseppe
Representative Lori Mizgorski
30th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Michelle Swab