Bill to protect pregnant inmates clears House committee

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – A state Senate bill that seeks to guarantee pregnant and postpartum inmates receive proper care could soon become law.

Senate Bill 84 cleared the Senate unanimously last month and was approved by the House Judiciary Committee unanimously Wednesday.

SB 84 would ban jails, penitentiaries, local and state correctional facilities, residential centers and reentry centers from placing inmates who are pregnant or within the immediate postpartum period in restrictive housing, administrative segregation, or solitary confinement.

Immediate postpartum period is defined in the bill as at least the first six weeks following childbirth. The postpartum period could be extended by a physician.

Under the bill, pregnant inmates would, however, be allowed to be placed in a cell or hospital room by themselves.

Bill sponsor and Majority Caucus Chair Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, testified that the fastest growing population in prisons are incarcerated women and that many of them are pregnant.

“As you know, pregnant women are increasingly harmed by solitary confinement because of the shift in their medical needs,” Raque Adams said. “Pregnant women are more susceptible to the common harms of solitary confinement because of the health situations specific to pregnancy.”

Under SB 84, any detention facility would also be required to provide pregnant inmates information on community-based programs serving pregnant, birthing or lactating inmates, and facilities would be required to refer pregnant inmates to a social worker.

Those social workers would be able to aid the inmates in making decisions regarding the wellbeing and placement of the infant and provide the inmate access to a phone to contact family regarding the placement of the infant.

The bill allows the infant to remain with the inmate for up to 72 hours after birth as long as there is not a medical or safety reason otherwise. SB 84 would also require facilities to give the inmate access to nutritional and hygiene-related products, such as diapers.

House Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. C. Ed Massey, R-Hebron, spoke in favor of the legislation and mentioned he recently read an article about a pregnant inmate who was awarded a civil judgement of $200,000 after she was not given proper care during childbirth.

“That’s just unacceptable anywhere, especially in an adopted, civilized country, so I appreciate your work on this, Senator,” Massey said.

SB 84 will now go before the full House for consideration.

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