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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: May 23, 2017 09:54 AM
From: Representative Emilio A. Vazquez
To: All House members
Subject: Alternative Sentences for Pregnant Women
In the near future, I will be introducing legislation to direct the court to order alternative, non-incarcerating sentences for offenders who are pregnant at the time of entering custody.

Incarceration can be detrimental to both maternal and infant health. Despite the fact that in one year alone, 1,400 women gave birth while incarcerated, there is still no national policy that dictates what should happen to children born behind bars. In fact, in Pennsylvania there are currently 18 pregnant inmates in state custody, nine at each female prison, while there were 17 births reported at SCI-Muncy over the last year. Unfortunately, incarcerated mothers are forced to either give up their child to foster care or place them with relatives.

Alternative sentencing programs allow mothers to remain in a supervised and structured community instead of being incarcerated. As my legislation only applies to non-violent offenders, their sentencing to a community-based alternative poses no danger to the public. Specifically, my bill directs the court to impose an individually assessed sentence, without confinement in a prison or halfway house, that’s based on community rehabilitation. In imposing the sentence, the court may require the pregnant offender to meet certain conditions, which include but may not be limited to:
  • Vocational and educational services;
  • Job training and placement education;
  • Affordable and safe housing assistance education;
  • Parenting classes; and
  • Family case management services.

We know that children of incarcerated parents are more likely to drop out of school, engage in delinquency, and subsequently be incarcerated themselves. As the number of women in prison has been increasing at a rate 50% higher than men since 1980, we must change the way we sentence low-level offenders to prison, especially for expectant mothers. Please join me in co-sponsoring this important piece of legislation.

Introduced as HB1865