In a victory for pregnant and incarcerated women in western Pennsylvania, the Allegheny County Jail has agreed to expansive new policies and accountability measures for housing pregnant women. These changes are part of a settlement from a lawsuit brought by five plaintiffs who were placed in solitary confinement for minor, non-violent infractions while pregnant.

Under the new policies, the jail must refrain from placing pregnant women in solitary confinement for any action that is not an immediate safety concern and must provide adequate hygiene items to those who are in isolation. Furthermore, the jail must provide pregnant women with prenatal vitamins and pregnancy meals regardless of their location and offer two hours of out-of-cell exercise time between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. as an important safeguard against health issues that can develop during pregnancy.

The settlement also contains monitoring provisions to ensure compliance, including that:

  • pregnant women denied access to “privileges” such as the commissary, phone calls, or visits are entitled to a hearing within 24 hours, and
  • lawyers may request a list of all pregnant women held in the jail, including documentation about their placement in any type of restrictive housing.

The federal district court will retain jurisdiction to enforce the settlement agreement’s term for three years.

The Abolitionist Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project, and the law firm of Reed Smith LLP represented the pregnant women, winning a $90,000 payment in addition to these long lasting protections for all incarcerated pregnant or postpartum women in Allegheny County Jail.

For more information on policies supporting pregnant and parenting incarcerated women, see page 16 in the Local Reproductive Freedom Index.