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Lawmakers want to change how Colorado’s criminal justice system handles pregnant defendants

This is an image of a snow covered Colorado State Capitol building from the East side where a statue of a Native American is standing over a slain buffalo.
Lucas Brady Woods
A new bill presented on Feb. 22, 2023 at the Colorado State Capitol would give courts alternatives to jail-time when sentencing pregnant defendants.

Representative Jennifer Bacon says criminal punishments can’t be at the expense of someone’s health. As one of the sponsors for House Bill 23-1187, a bill designed to consider alternatives for pregnant defendants, Bacon is concerned with both the parent and children who are impacted by pregnancy during incarceration.

The new bill introduced on Wednesday would allow courts to consider sentences other than jail-time for defendants who are pregnant or who have recently given birth. The bill suggests diverted sentences, a deferred judgment or an unaccompanied furlough as possibilities.

"Postpartum is real. The effects of pregnancy are real," said Bacon. "It is a medical condition and we feel like it should be treated as such and with the respect that it deserves. And that is really what we're putting on the table here."

Bacon says it's also about the well-being of the child.

"We want to be sure that if children are brought into the world, they have the opportunity to be brought in the world in the best way possible. And we're not entirely sure that jails and prisons are exactly that."

The bill would also require officials to give pregnancy tests to people in custody, if one is requested. Aefendant's pregnancy information would also be required to remain confidential. The bill also proposes that officials would also be required to submit an annual report tracking sentences.

The measure would authorize a pregnant defendant's re-arrest or additional sentencing, if they were to break their sentencing conditions.

The bill was approved by the House Judiciary committee with a 9-4 vote and will next undergo a fiscal review.

I’m the Statehouse Reporter at KUNC, which means I help make sense of the latest developments at the Colorado State Capitol. I cover the legislature, the governor, and government agencies.
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