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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: July 13, 2017 09:09 AM
From: Representative Mary Jo Daley and Rep. Thomas P. Murt
To: All House members
Subject: Resolution directing the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to study the implementation of Act 45 of 2010 (shackling of pregnant women in state and county custody)
In the near future, we will be reintroducing former House Resolution 1017 directing the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC) to study the implementation of Act 45 of 2010 – relating to the shackling of pregnant women in Pennsylvania correctional facilities, juvenile detention centers and county jails. It is our sincere hope that you will join us in this important public health effort.

The number of pregnant women and girls in correctional facilities throughout the country continues to rise. According to a 2014 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, approximately 209,000 women are held in prisons and jails nationwide. It is estimated that 4 percent of state and 3 percent of federally incarcerated women indicated they were pregnant at the time of admission. In Pennsylvania, there are more than 2,500 women currently in state correctional facilities and nearly 5,000 more housed in local county jails at any given time. It is clear that as the number of women incarcerated continues to grow, we need to reevaluate our correctional policies to ensure they are in line with established best practices, particularly in the case of pregnant women and girls.

Pregnant women house in correctional facilities are at a much higher risk for pregnancy complications, including miscarriage. Being shackled or restrained can directly impact the mental and physical well-being of pregnant women and girls – adding further strain to an already stressful situation. This can, in turn, result in increased medical costs to state and local governments. The Commonwealth took a great step forward with the passage of Act 45 of 2010 – commonly referred to as the Healthy Birth for Incarcerated Women Act. Act 45 prohibits placing pregnant women in restraints during labor, or in transport to a medical facility in the second or third trimesters of pregnancy, unless staff determine the individual represents a substantial risk of flight, or if there is some other extraordinary medical or security circumstance. Correctional facilities and juvenile detention centers are required to annually report instances of shackling to the Department of Corrections or the Department of Human Services.

While the Act was a meaningful step in the right direction on the issue, there have been challenges with enforcing the law. A recent two-year study conducted by the ACLU raised concerns that women are being restrained in a manner inconsistent with Act 45 and that correctional facilities are interpreting the requirements of Act 45 differently, leading to confusion and a lack of relevant data. Even the annual report issued by the Department of Corrections (DOC) notes that, while trying to explain the lack of county jails reporting information, “it is not known if the remaining jails were without incident or failed to report incidents as required.” Additionally, reports received by DOC are “often lacking critical information, such as trimester of pregnancy.”

This resolution will require LBFC to study the implementation of Act 45 since its enactment, with an emphasis on determining why a lack of data exists, the number of women being improperly shackled in this state and what changes can be made to the law to ensure adequate reporting. The study will also look at whether correctional facilities and juvenile detention centers in Pennsylvania are supporting overall best-practices in the care of pregnant women. LBFC will have one year to issue a report to the General Assembly with their findings.

Shackling poses a risk to a pregnant woman’s health and should only be used in rare and specific circumstances. We are hopeful this resolution will shine a light on this issue in Pennsylvania and lead to meaningful reforms. We invite all members to co-sponsor this important legislation.

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Introduced as HR444