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Gov. Malloy Signs Legislation Codifying Practices into Law to Ensure the Fair Treatment of Women in Prison

(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Dannel P. Malloy announced that he signed a new law on Monday that strengthens Connecticut’s efforts to bring fairness and dignity to incarcerated women, and thereby reduce recidivism. The legislation, which he proposed earlier this year, codifies into statute specific practices – many of which were enacted during the current administration – to require that they continue well into the future, no matter whom may be the state’s next governor.

“All people deserve to be treated with dignity, empathy, and respect, and incarcerated women are no exception,” said Governor Malloy. “Incarcerated women face unique challenges and barriers to success – a consideration that should be reflected in our statutes. These policies are part of our ongoing efforts in Connecticut to ensure that we are making strides that reduce recidivism, that end the cycle of crime and poverty, that continue to drive crime down even lower, and that ultimately results in permanent improvement and reformation instead of permanent punishment. We are working every day to fix the haunting legacy of mass incarceration, and this is another sensible step in the right direction.”

The legislation, Public Act 18-4An Act Concerning the Fair Treatment of Incarcerated Persons, was approved with unanimous votes of approval in both chambers of the Connecticut General Assembly.

Among its several requirements, the new law:

  • Prohibits the shackling of pregnant inmates during labor;
  • Requires the Department of Correction (DOC) to provide female inmates with feminine hygiene products at no cost;
  • Requires DOC to establish child friendly visitation policies;
  • Prohibits non-medical staff of the opposite gender from viewing or interfering with incarcerated women engaged in personal activities such as undressing, using toilet facilities, or showering;
  • Requires DOC to establish and provide parenting support as well as pre-natal and post-partum services and supports;
  • Requires DOC, the Board of Pardons and Paroles, and the Court Support Services Division of the judicial branch to utilize a gender responsible approach to risk assessment strategies that recognizes the unique risks and needs of female offenders;
  • Enhances requirements for gender-specific and trauma-related trainings for correctional staff; and
  • Establishes standards of treatment for inmates who have a gender identity that differs from their assigned sex at birth.

Each of the provisions take effect on October 1, except for the gender identity provision, which is effective July 1, and the DOC reporting provision, which is effective immediately.

Research shows that women who are involved in the criminal justice system are more likely to have histories of abuse, trauma, mental health, and substance use problems. According to the Vera Institute, nearly 60 percent of women in state prisons across the country have a history of physical or sexual abuse and 82 percent of women in jail have drug or alcohol abuse dependence. Vera’s report explored the ways in which incarceration further traumatizes women, leading to a cycle of trauma for survivors who end up in the system. Routine correctional procedures, like full body searches, can be re-traumatizing for survivors of abuse. Crimes committed by women are also less violent, and are mostly property and drug-related. Nearly 80 percent of women in jails are mothers.

“With the signing of this bill into law, Governor Malloy continues to show why he is a national leader for the humane and just treatment of offenders,” said Department of Correction Commissioner Scott Semple. “This new law ensures that practices that currently exist for our female offenders are codified and will endure into the future.”

“While Connecticut has passed the legislation needed to become a model for reforming its criminal justice system, we have not taken the steps necessary to address the unique challenges our women face while imprisoned,” said State Representative Robyn Porter (D-New Haven). “Our incarcerated women are trapped in a system that is designed specifically for men, and they are not treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. Governor Malloy’s signing of this legislation not only gives these women a platform for successful reentry, but more importantly it restores them with the dignity and respect needed for successful rehabilitation.”

“Transgender inmates deserve to be treated as humanely as anyone in our corrections system,” said State Representative Jeff Currey (D-East Hartford). “Transgender prisoners are subject to unique risks to their health and safety, and this new law will help ensure those risks are mitigated – it is a model for the country. All inmates deserve to be treated with dignity and respect – period.”

“Every person, including people who are incarcerated, should have their dignity, human rights, and constitutional rights respected,” said David McGuire, Executive Director of the ACLU of Connecticut. “With this law, Connecticut has rejected cruel prison and jail practices that hurt pregnant, menstruating, parenting, and transgender people to instead take a step toward respect, health, safety, and dignity for cisgender women and transgender people who are incarcerated in our state. The strong bipartisan support that this law received in the legislature shows that affirming incarcerated women and transgender people’s rights is not a partisan issue in the Constitution State. The ACLU of Connecticut welcomes this law as an important, nation-leading step toward justice.”

Tiheba Williams-Bain, founder of Women Against Mass Incarceration and a member of the ACLU of Connecticut Smart Justice campaign, said, “When you are incarcerated, you are constantly told that you’re not human. This law takes valuable steps toward rejecting that false message to instead affirm the humanity and dignity of incarcerated people. Connecticut needs this law because incarcerated people are human beings who need and deserve respect and justice.”

“Public Act 18-4 includes the strongest statewide protections for incarcerated transgender people anywhere in the country,” said Jennifer Levi, Transgender Rights Project Director for GLAD (GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders). “Transgender individuals are among the most vulnerable people within our systems of incarceration, facing daily harassment, humiliation, degradation, and abuse. With this update to the law, Connecticut is acknowledging that it is unacceptable for transgender people to face additional punishment simply for being who they are. I’m grateful to Representative Currey and Governor Malloy for making fairer treatment of transgender individuals within our systems of incarceration a priority. In passing this law, Connecticut becomes a model for the rest of the country.”

“We are fighting for a world where all mothers and people – regardless of race, gender, and other identities – can shape their lives and raise their children in peace, free from violence, fear and injustice,” said Arvia Walker, Public Policy and Strategic Engagement Specialist for Planned Parenthood of Southern New England. “We applaud the legislature and Governor for the passage and signing of Public Act 18-4. It is critical as a state that we protect women who are incarcerated and recognize the human dignity of all people. We will continue to work tirelessly for a country and health care system that provides affordable, high-quality care and treats all people with decency and respect.”

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