Cephas, Davis and Jones introduce bipartisan legislation to restore dignity for incarcerated women

State Reps. Morgan Cephas, Tina Davis and Mike Jones introduced bipartisan legislation today aimed at restoring dignity for incarcerated women across the commonwealth.

“Everyone has rights, and this legislation is meant to strengthen the safety precautions and supports that the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections already has for incarcerated individuals by making sure these policies stay in place for years to come,” said Cephas, D-Phila. “While we continue the conversation and action around criminal justice reform, we must remember our women and girls within the system. Many of our incarcerated individuals are mothers or expectant mothers who are the primary providers for their family. Restoring their dignity means ensuring they have the resources they need to take care of themselves, rehabilitate and get back to their loved ones. This bipartisan effort to protect lives is one we all should agree on.”

The legislation (H.B. 2875) would:

  • Update current restraint laws to better document restraint use and protect the mental and physical wellbeing 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, post-partum, 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.

“In order for incarcerated women to rehabilitate effectively and become upstanding members of society, they need to be treated with dignity and respect,” said Davis, D-Bucks. “Common-sense measures such as providing them with a variety of feminine hygiene products, ensuring the health and safety of pregnant inmates and fostering healthy and supportive parent-child relationships all play crucial roles in how they will succeed as workers, mothers and Pennsylvanians upon their release.”

“This issue transcends partisanship and politics,” said Jones, R-York. “These women need to serve their time like anyone else, but they remain mothers, wives, sisters and daughters, and we should treat them as we would our own.”

The American Conservative Union and #cut50, which works to safely reduce the country’s incarcerated population, both applaud this legislation.

“This barbaric practice of shackling serves no purpose other than humiliating and endangering both the mother and child,” said Kaitlin Owens, policy analyst, American Conservative Union. “It's unfortunate to think that our prison system needs to be reminded to 'treat human beings as human beings.' As conservatives, we believe every life has inherent and intrinsic worth and value. We believe a life whether in or out of the womb is precious and should be kept safe."

“I am proud that my state has introduced the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act to bring common-sense solutions to the conditions that incarcerated women in Pennsylvania face daily,” said Tonie Willis, #cut50 Dignity Campaign ambassador. “Addressing the issues of feminine hygiene products and the safer, more humane treatment of pregnant women behind bars is a necessary step towards basic decency for incarcerated women.”

Cephas and her colleagues in the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus' Women and Girls of Color Subcommittee introduced an extensive package of similar bills last legislative session.