By Clarissa Mobley, Kentucky Youth Advocates intern

Kentucky holds the second highest rate of incarceration for women in the nation, and second highest rate of children who have had a parent incarcerated. This problem has been growing at a significant rate and it’s not a statistic we want to see an increase in because of its’ impact on Kentucky’s children and families. Senate Bill 133, championed by Senator Julie Raque Adams and co-sponsored by Senators Whitney Westerfield and Alice Forgy Kerr, takes steps to address the shared sentence of parental incarceration by seeking to improve the outcomes of pregnant inmates and their babies. This measure would prohibit shackling of women during labor, delivery, and postpartum and would also allow pregnant women to be released to complete substance abuse treatment.

In Kentucky, 70.6 % of female inmates are mothers. This, coupled with the high incarceration rate, has had a significant impact on kids, and we expect the number of children impacted to climb. Many incarcerated parents in Kentucky are serving time for low-level, non-violent offenses, including more than 60% of mothers . Female inmates are more likely to have substance abuse or dependency issues, but have less access to substance abuse treatment than male inmates due to less access to treatment in county jails where many women are housed.

Allowing access to drug treatment to a pregnant woman who is incarcerated prioritizes the health and safety of the unborn child. SB 133 is a step in the right direction to ensure we are holding people accountable, prioritizing public safety, and keeping the best outcomes for kids and families top of mind.

SB 133 has passed out of the Kentucky Senate and now awaits action by the House. Stay up-to-date on SB 133 and other Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children priorities that are good for kids on our Kentucky General Assembly Bill Tracker. Read the latest Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children issue brief, Minimizing the Impact of Parental Incarceration on Children, here.