Friday, March 19, 2010

New Bill introduced: Pregnant Inmates and Wards' Conditions

Assembly Bill 1900, authored by Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, advocates for special standards of care for pregnant inmates and wards.

There has been some attention to the particular circumstances of pregnancy within bars. This 2006 NYT article exposes some of the less pleasant aspects of care: women in labor kept in shackles, given no more than Tylenol, supposedly out of concerns of escape (though there aren't any known cases of women in labor escaping. Pregnant inmates experience particular challenges during their incarceration. High rates of drug abuse and addiction complicate medical treatment (also see here). In addition, pregnant inmates report traumatic family histories and require more assistance and support during their pregnancy. A 1997 study suggests that adequate shelter and nutritional support make a big difference in terms of birth outcomes among inmates.

The proposed bill would amend the CA Penal Code to require the usage of the least intrusive methods (consistent with public safety concerns) for restricting pregnant inmates or wards during transportation and incarceration. It also requires monitoring other conditions, such as offering nutritional support and counseling about pregnancy, birth, and childcare options. The Corrections Standards Authority would assume responsibility for the particulars and would consult with a variety of professionals before setting them. Some prohibited measures are listed in the bill (though it is not an exhaustive list): shackling the feet and hands, shackling across the body, or shackling to another inmate.

The bill comes before the Assembly's Public Safety Committee on March 30.

On a related topic, here's an interesting blog post from Feministing about inmates' access to abortion.

Props to Ocean Mottley for alerting me to this.

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