Reeves signs Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act

Gov. Tate Reeves has signed legislation that will establish a certain level of care as it pertains to pregnant women that are incarcerated.

House Bill 196, sponsored by Rep. Nick Bain, limits the use of restraints on incarcerated inmates giving birth, provides certain care and consideration for pregnant and postpartum inmates, provides female hygiene items for inmates determined to be indigent, and places incarcerated mothers within a specified distance to their minor children.

“Mississippi is moving in the right direction,” said Steven Randle, Director of Justice and Work for Empower Mississippi. “This is good common-sense policy that establishes dignity for incarcerated women because every woman deserves that. This new law acknowledges that fact and recognizes that we have a responsibility to transfer that acknowledgment of basic human dignities to our incarcerated population as well.”

The incarceration rate of women in Mississippi prisons has been on the rise with over 1,500 females in the Mississippi Department of Corrections system. National research shows that almost 80 percent of incarcerated women are mothers. Studies also show that children who grow up with incarcerated parents are six to seven times more likely to be incarcerated themselves. Allowing mothers to be in close proximity to their young children and access to visitation can promote good behavior, better post-release outcomes, and reduce recidivism rates.

With the passage of HB 196, this women’s dignity legislation would put Mississippi on par with the nationwide trend of reform as it relates to the prison system.

The law is effective July 1.