If you’re pregnant and in prison in Louisiana, you could still find yourself in solitary confinement. A new bill before the legislature would end the practice in all but the most extreme circumstances.
The state’s rate of solitary confinement is the highest in the nation according to one 2018 study. Another report from 2019 found the same, putting Louisiana’s rate at four times the national average.
“And that's particularly problematic in a state like Louisiana where we have the second highest maternal mortality rate in the country, which is a rate that is four times as high for black women,” said Representative Mandie Landry of New Orleans, the bill’s author.
“And so when you put a woman who is already at high risk of experiencing complications by herself without access to anyone who may be able to help her, you increase the risk of blood clots and death.”
The bill prohibits any prisoner who is pregnant, less than eight weeks postpartum, or caring for a child while incarcerated from being placed in solitary confinement. The only exceptions are if the prisoner either acted in a way that resulted in or was likely to result in serious bodily injury or death to another, or if the prisoner is herself at serious risk.
It’s part of a wider movement among states including Georgia, Maryland, New Mexico and Texas to limit the practice on pregnant people. Landry said the law is just part of a need for a greater focus on the health care of women in prison, especially as rates of incarceration among women have been rising faster than among men. She added that the proposed law wouldn’t extend to parish jails, where many women are held.
The bill passed out of the criminal justice committee with no opposition and Landry expects it to be heard on the House floor on Friday.
“I am cautiously optimistic,” Landry said. “I find it hard to believe that anyone would oppose this, but this has kind of been a crazy session. So I don't want to take it for granted. But so far, I've heard no opposition and I think that it should pass.”