Pregnant inmate bill improves jail

A team of University of Minnesota professors, prison officials and legal aides are working to improve the treatment of pregnant women in Minnesota’s prison system, the Minnesota Daily reported last week.

The bill, which a committee will present to the Legislature before the end of its current session, proposes a number of changes to the current laws regarding the treatment of pregnant inmates. Most notably, the bill includes a new handcuffing method that makes it easier for pregnant inmates to catch themselves if they fall. Prison workers would be required to formally report when they handcuff a pregnant inmate.

The bill would also mandate pregnancy testing on or before the 14th day of incarceration. Nationwide, it is estimated that one in 25 women is pregnant when admitted to state prisons. In Minnesota, approximately 4,200 pregnant women are arrested every year.

Last year, the state Legislature enacted a law forbidding the use of restraints on inmates as they give birth. The law also provides inmates with professional birth coaches. These coaches have been shown to dramatically reduce inmates’ need for Cesarean sections, which are more than twice as expensive as traditional births.

Last year’s bill passed unanimously, and we feel that it stands today as a supreme example of “good government.” Although the current bill does not yet include proposed funding methods, we encourage the Legislature to pass it. Although it is a simple and small change, it would go a long way toward humanizing the state’s prison systems.