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House of Representatives
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: January 25, 2019 04:28 PM
From: Representative Summer Lee
To: All House members
Subject: Alternative Sentences for Pregnant Women
The number of incarcerated women in the U.S. increased from about 13,000 in 1980 to more than 250,000 in 2018. This escalation is in large part due to increasing arrests for non-violent drug offenses as a result of the opioid epidemic. Furthermore, 25% of incarcerated women are pregnant or have given birth in the past year. For women who give birth while in prison, they are forced to either give up their child to foster care or place them with relatives, leaving the mother without any idea when or if she will see her newborn child again.

For this reason, my legislation will require that pregnant women who were not convicted of a violent crime receive alternative sentences to ensure their health during pregnancy and their ability to be a mother to their children. 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 protecting the wellbeing of pregnant women and children in Pennsylvania.

Introduced as HB1009