LOUISVILLE, KY – With passage of Senate Bill 133 of 2018, the Kentucky General Assembly became the first state in the country to pass the “Dignity Bill,” a piece of legislation specifically tailored toward improving conditions for women who are incarcerated. This year, the legislature re-emphasized their commitment to the issue by unanimously supporting passage of Senate Bill 84, known as the “Dignity Bill 2.0,” sponsored by Senator Julie Raque Adams. And today we join Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children partners in celebrating as Governor Andy Beshear signs the measure into law.
SB 84 supports the health and well-being of pregnant women who are incarcerated by establishing housing and medical observation for up to six weeks postpartum, establishing a process for accessing community-based programs like substance use treatment, and eliminating the use of solitary confinement for people who are pregnant. This measure isn’t only about improving outcomes for incarcerated mothers; it’s also about minimizing the impact on their baby. Parental incarceration has been referred to as a “shared sentence” due to the short and long-term effects it has on children’s physical health, mental health, and educational achievement. And this measure takes impactful steps to minimize that shared sentence for some of our most vulnerable Kentuckians.
Unfortunately, in Kentucky, 12 percent of children have had a parent separated from them due to incarceration—the 3rd highest rate in the nation. And due to systemic inequities within the criminal justice system, Black children are disproportionately impacted by having a loved one incarcerated. The latest also data tell us that the number of women incarcerated has grown at an alarming pace in the commonwealth in recent decades, with women incarcerated more likely to be a parent and locked up for low-level drug offenses. With SB 84’s efforts to expand access to substance use treatment for inmates, mothers with drug charges will be able to access necessary services so they are able to achieve sobriety and best care for their children when released.
We applaud Senator Raque Adams for being a tireless advocate for women who are incarcerated and their children and championing the Dignity Bill 2.0. We thank the 2021 Kentucky General Assembly for supporting its passage this legislative session and Governor Beshear for ensuring it’s a reality for some of our most vulnerable Kentuckians.
Stay up-to-date on Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children priorities and other bills that are good for kids on our Kentucky General Assembly Bill Tracker.
About Kentucky Youth Advocates
Kentucky Youth Advocates believes all children deserve to be safe, healthy, and secure. As THE independent voice for Kentucky’s children, we work to ensure policymakers create investments and policies that are good for children. Learn more at www.kyyouth.org.