Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Some Pregnant Inmates Getting Bond Reductions

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Some Pregnant Inmates Getting Bond Reductions

Article excerpt

Facing a lawsuit alleging poor conditions and cruel punishments for pregnant women, the Allegheny County Jail has eased discipline and started to work with courts to release some of the dozen or so inmates who are with child.

On Dec. 19, five inmates represented by Bret Grote of the Abolitionist Law Center sued the county, alleging that they had been placed in solitary confinement, sometimes for weeks, for minor offenses like possession of a library book with pictures and envelopes inside of it, or having three pairs of shoes, rather than the permitted two pairs.

Warden Orlando Harper on Monday denied any special effort to get pregnant inmates out.

"Pregnant inmates come into the Jail and get released all of the time in the normal course of the operations of the facility," he wrote in response to questions.

Allegheny County Common Pleas President Judge Jeffrey A. Manning, though, said that he has recently approved the release of several pregnant inmates. Pre-Trial Services estimated that about a half-dozen pregnant women have been released in recent weeks.

Judge Manning told Mr. Harper to put the names of those inmates on the bail list - which he hears each day at 11 a.m. - and said he would consider them for release.

In each of those instances thus far, the Pre-Trial Services recommendation has been for release. In instances where the women are known to have a substance abuse problem, Judge Manning said, they are released to in-patient treatment only, and can be released from that only upon successful completion of the program.

Following release, the women must undergo random drug screens.

There was one instance, Judge Manning said, of a pregnant woman having been released where the district attorney's office asked him to revoke bond knowing the woman was a heroin user and that the fetus would be at risk. In that case, the judge agreed, and the woman was re-arrested and placed in in-patient treatment.

Court records show that other inmates believed to be pregnant have had their bonds reduced from as high as $10,000 to non-monetary, meaning they promise to show up for hearings but don't have to pay. …

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