Cephas, Davis, Jones, Mizgorski unveil Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act

HARRISBURG, May 26 – State Rep. Morgan Cephas, D-Phila., along with state Reps. Tina Davis, D-Bucks; Mike Jones, R-York; and Lori A. Mizgorski, R-Allegheny, hosted a news conference today to unveil the Dignity for Incarceration Act, bipartisan legislation that aims to make comprehensive reforms to how women and femme-identifying people are treated in correctional institutions.

“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.”

Over the span of three decades Pennsylvania has seen a significant increase in the number of incarcerated women, and the DFIW Act bill would provide well-vetted provisions at both the state and county level, with necessary oversight from children and youth services.

“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 “It is time to once and for all eliminate these outdated and cruel institutional methods against women.”

The legislators were joined by Dream Corps JUSTICE, the American Conservative Union and Ardella’s House, along with other stakeholders, in their calls to the state legislature to act immediately on the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act, which would acknowledge the unique needs of incarcerated women in Pennsylvania and their families, and take proactive steps to address female healthcare needs, including:

  • Prohibiting the shackling of pregnant women and updating current restraint laws to better document restraint use.
  • Providing a variety of feminine hygiene and incontinence products to incarcerated women at no cost.
  • Prohibiting restrictive housing for pregnant or postpartum women and detainees.
  • Requiring all correctional institution employees who have contact with pregnant incarcerated women to undergo training related to pregnancy, post-partum and trauma-informed care.

“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.”

“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.”