2019 Legislation: County-Level Women's Justice Reforms

The majority of people in Texas’ county jails are simply awaiting trial. Sadly, the number of women awaiting trial grew 48% between 2011 and 2017, even as the number of female arrests in Texas decreased 20% over that time period. Texas must take steps to ensure that women detained in county jails have access to needed care. The bills below will improve the treatment of pregnant women in county jails, while also expanding access to feminine hygiene products and improving overall data collection on incarcerated women.

*** The bills with asterisks below were priority bills on TCJE’s legislative agenda.

*** HB 1651 (Authors: Mary González, White, Charles “Doc” Anderson | Sponsor: Alvarado), Relating to the care of pregnant women confined in county jail. By December 2019, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS) must adopt rules and procedures to ensure that each county jail’s health services plan addresses obstetrical and gynecological care, and that each county jail identifies when a pregnant woman is in labor and provides appropriate care, including promptly transporting her to a local hospital.

Also by December 2019, TCJS must adopt rules and procedures regarding the use of restraints to control or restrict the movement of a woman who is confirmed to be pregnant or who gave birth in the preceding 12 weeks. The rules and procedures must:

  • prohibit the use of restraints for the duration of the pregnancy and at least 12 weeks after giving birth unless: they are necessary to prevent an escape attempt, the woman poses a threat to the health and safety of herself or others, or the woman’s health care professional determines they are necessary for the health and safety of the woman or her unborn child;
  • require jail staff to use the least restrictive restraints necessary to prevent escape or ensure health and safety; and
  • require jail staff to refrain from using restraints or remove them at the request of the health care professional.

Each county jail must annually submit to TCJS a report on the jail’s use of restraints during the preceding calendar year on a confirmed-pregnant woman or one who gave birth in the preceding 12 weeks; the report must include the circumstances of each use of restraints, including the specific restraints used, what the woman was doing immediately before being restrained, whether the woman was restrained during or after delivery or while being transported to a local hospital, and the reasons supporting the determination to use restraints, as well as a description of the process by which the determination was made, and the name and title of the person(s) making the determination. Signed by the Governor; effective on 9/1/2019

*** HB 2169 (Authors: Allen, Rosenthal, Wu, Ramos, Neave | Sponsor: Whitmire), Relating to reporting concerning female prisoners who are confined in county jails and to the provision of feminine hygiene products to female prisoners. By December 2019, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS) must establish minimum standards for the quantity and quality of feminine hygiene products provided to incarcerated women – including tampons in regular and large sizes and menstrual pads with wings in regular and large sizes. Separately, in each county’s monthly report to TCJS on its jail population, it must include information on the number of women confined, beginning in October 2019. Signed by the Governor; effective on 9/1/2019