The opioid crisis that has been impacting our nation has hit Kentucky especially hard. What we’ve seen is that it’s not just people struggling with the disease of addiction that are affected, but children are also impacted in a significant way. We have seen it with the spike in children being cared for by relatives and in the overall increase in the number of children in foster care. Kentucky has been taking steps to respond, and one of the 2018 measures went into effect on July 14th.

This legislative session, Kentucky’s General Assembly passed Senate Bill 133, sponsored by Senator Julie Raque Adams, which allows pregnant women who are struggling with a drug addiction to be released to attend a treatment program. Plain and simple, this bill ensures we can actually do what is best for the health of the baby and mother. Prior to the bill taking effect, pregnant inmates who were housed in county jails would most often not have any access to treatment and would simply have to go through withdraw and detox without being overseen by a treatment provider. That’s not good for the mother, let alone the baby.

SB 133 made several other changes to ensure Kentucky’s prison and jail systems adequately address the new reality of more women being incarcerated. Pregnant women will no longer be shackled during labor, delivery, or immediately after giving birth. That represents another improvement that prioritizes the health of the baby and mother. The bill also addresses basic hygiene for women, requiring that women have access to feminine hygiene products and undergarments, which isn’t often the case.

Kentucky faces many challenges with our criminal justice policies – including having the troubling distinction of have the second highest rate in the nation of women who are incarcerated. We need a criminal justice system that holds people accountable, but not at the expense of our future. We can be smart about how we respond to crime, and SB 133 marks a strong step towards updating our antiquated policies and practices. As told in a previous blog post from our partners at Volunteers of America Mid-States, the future is too precious to jeopardize.