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Congresswoman Karen Bass

Representing the 37th District of California

Grijalva and Bass: Mistreatment of Pregnant Women in Prison and Detention Facilities Must Be Addressed

November 9, 2017
Press Release
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Rep. Karen Bass (CA-37), released the following statements after sending a letter to Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, requesting a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report to address the treatment of pregnant women in prisons and detention facilities. Joined by 30 Members of Congress, the letter requests that the GAO further investigate what practices and guidelines are being implemented regarding the treatment of pregnant women in prison. Recent news reports have highlighted the inhumane practices women face while in prison, including solitary confinement, shackling and denial of adequate health services.

We often forget that women’s rights are human rights. The mass incarceration policies in this country caters to for-profit prisons and only incentivizes the detention and incarceration of more individuals, many of which are vulnerable women who flee their home countries escaping gang-related and sexual violence,” said Rep. Grijalva. “Reports of horrific treatment of incarcerated pregnant women breaks the moral fabric of our society.  The thought of a pregnant women sitting in solitary confinement without access to needed food and nourishment is simply heart-breaking. We need to know why this is happening, how often it is happening and what can be done to prevent this situation.” 

“If even a portion of the anecdotal reports we’ve heard are true, we are obligated to investigate to make sure that pregnant women in custody are treated with basic dignity and that we are in no way putting the prenatal health of these unborn babies in danger,” said Rep. Bass. “We know there is a direct correlation between a mother’s health and wellness during pregnancy and the health prognosis of the child. Practices such as solitary confinement, shackling, and the denial of basic health services can lead to serious health consequences for both mother and child and we must ensure that policies and procedures that protect these women are enforced. This report is an important step and I fully intend to continue to take my oversight seriously when it comes to this issue."

Text of the letter can be found here.