Cephas, Davis and Jones renew bipartisan effort to restore dignity to incarcerated women during virtual roundtable discussion
With the new 2021-22 legislative about to start, state Reps. Morgan Cephas, Tina Davis and Mike Jones are renewing their bipartisan efforts to restore dignity to incarcerated women.
"The number of incarcerated women has skyrocketed in Pennsylvania over the last three decades, and too many of them are still being denied basic human rights," said Cephas, D-Phila. "A large number of them are mothers and primary caregivers forced to leave their children behind, and we have a responsibility to help not hinder their efforts to rehabilitate. Our bipartisan plan is meant to build on the support already put in place by the state Department of Corrections in hopes of preventing further trauma and instead providing these women with the resources they need to serve their debt to society and get back to their loved ones safely."
The three joined the advocacy group Ardella's House, #cut50, the American Conservative Union and York County District Attorney David Sunday for a virtual roundtable discussion yesterday, focusing on a bill they introduced in the 2019-20 legislative session and plan on reintroducing in the new session that would:
- Update current restraint laws to better document restraint use and protect the mental and physical well-being of pregnant women and their children.
- Prohibit restrictive housing for pregnant or postpartum women and detainees.
- Require all correctional institution employees who have contact with pregnant, incarcerated individuals to undergo comprehensive, professional training related to pregnancy, postpartum, and trauma-informed care.
- Create an environment that promotes and supports sustainability of healthy parent-child relationships by treating the mother with dignity and providing the children with some degree of normalcy during her incarceration.
- Provide a variety of feminine hygiene and incontinence products to incarcerated individuals at no cost to meet their basic human needs.
“Just because a woman has been incarcerated does not mean the state is not obligated to treat her with dignity,” Davis, D-Bucks, said. “But that is just what has happened, with inhumane and degrading treatment of women in the correctional system being the standard. Our proposal would stop this injustice by requiring the correctional system take into consideration the unique needs of women behind bars, beginning with supplying them with feminine hygiene products, forbidding the shackling of pregnant and postpartum women, increasing family visitations to at least twice a week, and requiring the corrections officer be of the same gender when a prisoner is required to disrobe. This plan would transform the correctional system into a place where the recognition of the dignity of the female prisoner is the foundation of her rehabilitation.”
“I was honored to participate in today’s roundtable hosted by Cut 50 and ACU," said Jones, R-York. "It’s critical we keep the spotlight on this important issue and push our legislature to act in the coming year.”
Cephas said there is no exact date for when their proposal will be reintroduced.