SB 809 — Correctional Facilities – Restrictive Housing – Pregnant Inmates

Committee: Senate Judicial Proceedings

Position: SUPPORT

The Maryland Catholic Conference (“Conference”) offers this testimony in support of Senate Bill 809. The Conference represents the public policy interests of the three Roman Catholic (arch)dioceses serving Maryland: the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington, which together encompass over one million Marylanders.

Senate Bill 809 supports the needs of a vulnerable population in Maryland – pregnant inmates – and seeks to affirm their dignity and worth by preventing isolation (in segregation or the infirmary.) Restrictive housing can cause individuals to experience the great psychological discomfort including anxiety, fear, depression, and anger; which directly correlate to adverse birth outcomes for mothers and infants.

In addition to the mental duress caused by restrictive housing, social isolation can lead to unique dangers for pregnant women including the prevention of critical obstetrics and health care, loss of an individual’s daily routine, regular exercise, regime, and diet; and lowering their ability to fight infection leading to increased risk of preterm labor, miscarriage, and low birth weight.

Protecting the needs of a woman during her pregnancy can have a positive effect on a woman’s role as a mother and citizen. With the growing number of incarcerated women who are pregnant, it is important to recognize that failing to provide preventive and curative health care for these women may cost more to society than funding programs that might improve attachment and parenting behaviors, facilitate drug rehabilitation, and reduce recidivism among this population.

It is for these reasons that the Conference asks for a favorable report of Senate Bill 809. Thank you for your consideration.