Pa. lawmakers introduce bill to end shackling of pregnant incarcerated women

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Pennsylvania legislators introduced a bill last week that would improve the quality of life for incarcerated women.

The Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act, or H.B. 2875, would improve conditions for women behind the wall by ending the shackling of pregnant women, providing access to free feminine hygiene products as well as other reforms.

"We also need to stop putting women in solitary confinement when they are pregnant," said Tonie Willis, who runs Ardella's House, a group that advocates for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women.

Willis is also a Dignity Campaign Ambassador for #cut50, a group that has lobbied for the bill for many, many months.

"This bill is so important," she said. "It's a lot of things that are going on behind the wall when it comes to mass incarceration, especially when it comes to women."

Corrections officers who deal with pregnant women would also get trained on trauma-informed care, how to treat postpartum depression and more.

"It has been a long time coming, but it’s really exciting," said Pennsylvania Rep. Morgan Cephas, the bill's lead sponsor. She said they have some Republican support, and will work for more.

"Harrisburg is a hard nut to crack unless things are done in a bipartisan way," she shared.

A companion Senate version of the bill, S.B. 1275, was also introduced last week.