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CONTACT: Kaitlin Owens

All Women Deserve to be Treated with Human Dignity – Especially While Pregnant

Alexandria, VA – Today we proudly commend the unanimous passage of HB 1648 – ‘Dignity for Incarcerated Women’ in the Senate, led by Delegates John McGuire, Nick Freitas, and Kaye Kory of the Virginia General Assembly.

As a conservative organization that focuses on improving the criminal justice system, we support this positive step towards affording every woman in prison a degree of basic humanity, which is often lost in a system designed for men.

Women are the fastest growing population in the commonwealth’s prison system. Unfortunately, the unique needs and challenges of this growing population of incarcerated women are often left out of the conversations surrounding criminal justice reform. The bi-partisan sponsors of Dignity for Incarcerated Women have recognized the burgeoning crisis of women’s healthcare in our prisons. “Our Dignity bill is a pro-life, pro humane, and a pro woman bill that is plainly common sense. I am proud to chief co-patron this bipartisan legislation with ACU and others,” explained Delegate McGuire.

Dignity for Incarcerated Women would provide guidance to address pregnancy-related needs of incarcerated women. In addition to providing access to prenatal and post-delivery care, and support to pregnant and postpartum inmates, training and technical assistance would be provided to correctional staff to ensure compliance. Without proper access and training, incarcerated women will continue to be body searched by corrections officers of the opposite gender, leading to further trauma, and children will have less opportunity to visit their mothers who are serving time to ensure a familial bond. This is incredibly important considering that in Virginia, 1 in 4 children will experience the incarceration of a parent before the age of 18.

Olivia McLarnan, a Policy Analyst at #cut50, notes “today the Virginia Senate took a huge step forward to improve the lives of the Virginia’s incarcerated women and their families. We are proud of the bipartisan support shown for HB 1648 and look forward to continuing to build on this momentum with our partners across the aisle.”

One key provision deals with the shocking practice of shackling pregnant women during pregnancy and delivery. Unbelievably, this heinous practice still happens far too often inside our prisons. The use of shackles can cause injuries to mothers and their babies, including physical trauma due to falls, increased pain during labor from bone separation and muscle tears, blocked circulation, and miscarriage.

Delegate Kory explains that, “the number of women inmates has skyrocketed since 1980 by 750%. Our criminal justice system cannot handle women’s needs–especially the needs of the 60% who are mothers. I am very proud to be the patron of HB 1648, this exciting first step towards healing and strengthening the families who are forced apart by incarceration.”

There is a growing trend on keeping babies with their mothers for a set period of time in order to bond with one another. Feeling the same heartbeat, hearing the same rhythm of breathing, assures the baby they’re safe and with their mother. Those of us who place a high value on families, keeping children with their mothers makes perfect sense. There is no stronger bond than that a mother’s love for her child. Kaitlin Owens, a Policy Analyst at ACUF’s Nolan Center for Justice, adds, “As conservatives, we believe every life has value. Dignity for Incarcerated Women ensures that expectant mothers are provided all the things necessary for a safe pregnancy and a healthy delivery even when they are behind bars. Nothing is more pro-life than that.”

As conservatives, we believe it is possible to be tough on crime, while recognizing that each person has inherent value. The underlying principles embodies in Dignity for Incarcerated Women will help to preserve the human dignity of the women and babies in our justice system, while achieving more positive results for families throughout the country.

Our mission at the American Conservative Union Foundation is to educate Americans about conservative solutions to the country’s most pressing problems. ACUF’s Center for Criminal Justice Reform promotes policies that improve public safety, reduce government cost, and protect human dignity. Criminal Justice Reform is a high priority for ACUF, and it has been highlighted at each of ACUF’s Conservative Political Action Conferences (CPAC) for over a decade. For more information, please got to: ConservativeJustiveReform.org.