FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
November 14, 2018
Contact: Press@paul.senate.gov, 202-224-4343
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) will introduce the Pregnant Women in Custody Act of 2018 to help guarantee the health and safety of women who are pregnant and give birth while in federal custody, as well as to encourage states to pursue reforms that would ensure adequate protections for such inmates.
The bill would prohibit the use of restraints and restrictive housing on pregnant federal inmates and incentivize states to adopt similar practices by leveraging existing federal assistance programs. It serves as a companion to H.R. 6805, introduced in the U.S. House by Representatives Karen Bass (D-CA) and Mia Love (R-UT) in September 2018.
“While debates over the best ways to address problems in our criminal justice system have been occurring for years, there are some reforms that are just common sense, like protecting the health of pregnant incarcerated women and their unborn children. An incarcerated individual is still a human being whose life deserves to be valued and protected, which is why our proposal prohibits the use of restraints on pregnant federal inmates, particularly when they are in labor, and ensures these women are treated with compassion and respect as they bring new life into the world,” said Senator Paul.
“Pregnancy and childbirth take an enormous physical toll on women’s bodies and require consistent medical attention, but in many states across our country, incarcerated pregnant and postpartum women are often restrained and placed in solitary without access to adequate medical and nutritional care. This inhumane and archaic treatment of pregnant women and new mothers is why I am proud to introduce the Pregnant Women in Custody Act of 2018,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This legislation would create and uphold a national standard of care for mothers who are serving their time in an already flawed criminal justice system in dire need of reforms. Congress should be protecting and valuing mothers wherever they are in our society, and I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this bipartisan legislation.”
Over 2,000 women give birth while in custody each year. During the course of their pregnancies and in postpartum recovery, a majority of pregnant inmates are placed in restraints and restrictive housing, even during labor. The use of such restraints can lead to muscle tears, bone separation, blocked blood circulation, and miscarriage. Placing pregnant inmates in restrictive housing creates a risk of mental and physical harm from a lack of medical and nutritional care.
While 25 states and the District of Columbia have already restricted the use of restraints on pregnant inmates, no federal law exists prohibiting that practice.
You can find more background on this bipartisan legislation below, and you can read the entire bill below.
The Pregnant Women in Custody Act of 2018:
• Ensures access to resources necessary to meet the unique needs of pregnant women;
• Ensures the Bureau of Prisons captures accurate data on the health care needs of pregnant inmates, while also prohibiting the cataloging of personally identifiable information;
• Prohibits the use of restraints on pregnant and postpartum inmates (up to eight weeks postpartum), unless she poses an immediate risk of escape or physical harm to herself or others; and
• Encourages reform at the state level by providing for a preference in grant funding for states who have enacted or implemented services or pilot programs aimed at enhancing the safety and wellness of pregnant inmates.
o This bill does not call for new funding but rather provides incentives by asking the Department of Justice to prioritize awards from existing grant programs to states who have made these changes.