COOK COUNTY, IL – Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart today announced plans to introduce groundbreaking legislation to reduce the number of children born in custody in Illinois.
Under the proposal, pregnant individuals in custody found to be likely to give birth during pre-trial detention shall be given an alternative to incarceration, such as electronic monitoring, unless a special hearing determines the release would pose a risk to public safety. The legislation would not impact the criminal charges against the woman.
From April 2016 to May 2017 nearly 300 pregnant women were incarcerated at the Cook County Jail and 17 of them gave birth while in custody.
In-custody births may not only be traumatic, they can add significantly to taxpayer costs and frequently necessitate the involvement of child welfare agencies.
“It makes no sense that the criminal justice system would require someone facing a non-violent, low-level charge to give birth while in custody,” said Sheriff Dart. “Such practices not only hurt the mother and family, they cost taxpayers dearly and should be avoided whenever possible. This legislation will ensure a child is born in custody only when public safety is at risk.”
The legislation will be sponsored by Senator Bill Cunningham and Representative Kelly M. Cassidy.