By Clarissa Mobley, Kentucky Youth Advocates intern

As Dr. Terry Brooks stated following the final passage of Senate Bill 133, “all children deserve a strong start in life.” Allowing access to drug treatment for a pregnant woman who is incarcerated prioritizes the health and safety of the unborn child. SB 133, sponsored by Senator Julie Raque Adams and signed into law this week by the Governor, 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. The bill will ensure that women who are pregnant, struggling with substance use, and seeking treatment, would have access to treatment that would ensure the overall health and well-being of the mother and child. Additionally, this bill will prohibit the shackling of pregnant inmates during labor and delivery and ensure female inmates have necessary undergarments and hygiene products. Incarceration does not make problems go away for women struggling with addictions, but by prioritizing their health and the health of their baby, we can help improve the outcomes for our pregnant inmates and their children.

Having worked with inmates in a local jail, I am aware of the struggles they face on a daily basis. I’ve worked with female inmates who did not have proper undergarments or feminine hygiene products suitable for their needs. This is a basic necessity for women, and by ensuring these needs are met, SB 133 eliminates one other issue so that they can focus on their priorities and responsibility while incarcerated. Some of the incarcerated women I’ve worked with did not have the supports to raise their children or to ensure that they had a healthy pregnancy and delivery. This bill helps to alleviate some of those issues by providing substance use treatment options for the pregnant inmates who need it, helping them become healthy, strong mothers who are able to parent healthy babies. If these treatment options were available to the women I have worked with, it would have improved their outcomes tremendously.

In Kentucky, 71% of women who are incarcerated are mothers and many are struggling with addiction. This has a significant impact on Kentucky kids, and SB 133 takes a step forward to help many children and their mothers.

We applaud Senator Julie Raque Adams and co-sponsors Senators Whitney Westerfield and Alice Forgy Kerr for taking steps to address the shared sentence of parental incarceration by seeking to improve the outcomes of pregnant inmates and their babies, and championing this bill all the way to the end. Their work to ensure that pregnant women have access to substance use treatment is a huge win for Kentucky children and their mothers.