The Dignity for Incarcerated Women’s Act could restore the integrity, as well as provide some comfort for pregnant women who are in prison. HB 196, authored by Representative Nick Bain, would make provisions for women who are with child or giving birth to a baby while incarcerated.
The bill passed unanimously in the House before moving to the Senate where it was also passed unanimously before being held on a motion to reconsider. Likely a procedural move with the upcoming deadline.
“Giving these women a little humanity and showing them that even though you have made a mistake, we are all better than our worst moment,” said Bain. “In my view its one of the most important pro-life bills we’ve had a chance to do because you’re dealing with an innocent, as most innocent as you can be child, who is in a situation they didn’t ask for.”
The bill would prevent the use of restraints while a woman was giving birth and in recovery from labor, additional prenatal training for guards who are present in the event emergency medical care is needed, adequate nutrition and sleeping arrangements for their condition.
The legislation would also permit a newborn to spend up to 72 hours with their mother before being separated and placed in the custody of someone outside of the prison. Bain said these measures won’t cost the state any money.
Bain said he has received full support from MDOC for the bill, including that of the new Commissioner.
“I have not had any negativity from them,” said Bain. “Burl Cain has a real compassionate view towards corrections. He and his administration are all for it.”
Bain said this bill fits perfectly into the efforts for criminal justice reform.