ASSEMBLY, No. 5865

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

219th LEGISLATURE

 

INTRODUCED JUNE 9, 2021

 


 

Sponsored by:

Assemblywoman  GABRIELA M. MOSQUERA

District 4 (Camden and Gloucester)

Assemblyman  RAJ MUKHERJI

District 33 (Hudson)

Assemblywoman  YVONNE LOPEZ

District 19 (Middlesex)

 

Co-Sponsored by:

Assemblywomen Reynolds-Jackson, Jasey, Lampitt, Downey and Assemblyman Houghtaling

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Establishes the “Female Inmates’ Rights Protection Act.”

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     As introduced.

  


An Act establishing the “Female Inmates’ Rights Protection Act,” amending P.L.1977, c.102, and supplementing Title 30 of the Revised Statutes.

 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

     1.    (New section)  This act shall be known and may be cited as the “Female Inmates’ Rights Protection Act.”

 

     2.    (New section)  a.  The Commissioner of Corrections shall ensure that any prohibited acts that subject an inmate to disciplinary actions or sanctions are gender appropriate and shall establish separate prohibited acts for male and female inmates.

     b.    The commissioner shall implement gender appropriate disciplinary actions and sanctions for any prohibited acts committed by an inmate.

     c.  The commissioner shall establish the prohibited acts and implement the disciplinary actions and sanctions for prohibited acts pursuant to subsections a. and b. of this section based upon the following principles:

     (1) acknowledging that gender makes a difference;

     (2) creating an environment based on safety, respect, and dignity;

     (3) developing policies, practices, and programs that are relational and promote healthy connections to children, family, significant others, and the community;

     (4) addressing substance use disorders, trauma, and mental health issues through comprehensive, integrated and culturally relevant services and appropriate supervision;

     (5) providing women with opportunities to improve their socioeconomic conditions; and

     (6) establishing a system of community supervision and reentry with comprehensive, collaborative services.

     d.    The commissioner shall annually submit a report to the Legislature, pursuant to section 2 of P.L.1991, c.164 (C.52:14-19.1), providing a summary of all disciplinary actions and sanctions imposed on inmates, which shall contain each inmate’s gender.

     e.     The commissioner shall institute mandatory in-service training for every correctional police officer assigned to the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women regarding gender responsive policies.  The commissioner shall ensure that every newly appointed correctional police officer completes the training upon assignment to the facility and every correctional police officer currently assigned to the facility completes the training within two years of the effective date of P.L.    , c.    (C.        ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).

 

     3.    (New section)  a.  The Commissioner of Corrections shall establish a  nursery program allowing newborn children to remain with their incarcerated mothers if the female inmate gave birth to the child while incarcerated in a State correctional facility. 

     b.  A female inmate shall not be eligible for the nursery program if:

     (1) the inmate has been previously convicted of, adjudicated delinquent for, or is currently serving a sentence imposed for any crime enumerated under section 2 of P.L.1997, c.117 (C.2C:43-7.2);

     (2) a search conducted by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency in the Department of Children and Families of its child abuse registry, at the request of the commissioner, reveals that an incident of child abuse or neglect has been substantiated by the division  against the inmate;

     (3) the inmate has outstanding warrants;

     (4) the inmate has committed any prohibited act required to be reported to the prosecutor pursuant to regulations promulgated by the Commissioner of Corrections during the current period of incarceration, or has committed any serious disciplinary infraction, designated in regulations promulgated by the commissioner as a prohibited act that is considered to be the most serious and results in the most severe sanctions, within the previous two years;

     (5) the inmate has been previously convicted of, adjudicated delinquent for, or is currently serving a sentence imposed for a crime committed against a person under the age of 16; or

     (6) there is evidence of the use of a controlled dangerous substance as defined in N.J.S.2C:35-2 during the inmate’s pregnancy.

     c.  An inmate that is eligible to participate in the program shall be transferred to a residential community release program while participating in the program.

     d.    Unless there is a court order regarding child custody providing otherwise, a child in the program shall remain with the child’s mother in the residential community release program until the child is two years of age or the inmate is released, whichever occurs sooner. 

     e.     The commissioner shall provide support services for female inmates participating in the program including, but not limited to, parenting classes.  The inmate shall participate in all available prenatal and parenting classes.

     f.  Prior to being admitted into the program, an inmate shall submit to a mental health evaluation by a psychologist or psychiatrist licensed in New Jersey, who, based upon the evaluation, shall make a recommendation to the commissioner regarding the inmate’s participation in the program.

     g.    The commissioner shall provide accommodations for parenting time with the child’s other parent as agreed upon by the inmate and the child’s other parent or in accordance with a court order.

     h.    The commissioner shall, in accordance with the "Administrative Procedure Act," P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.), promulgate rules and regulations governing the nursery program established in this section. 

 

     4.  (New section)  a.  The Commissioner of Corrections shall provide doula services to inmates who are pregnant.  A person providing doula services shall be permitted to attend and provide assistance during labor and childbirth. 

     b.  The commissioner shall allow an inmate to have a support person present during labor and childbirth.

     c.  As used in this section, “doula services” means services provided by a trained doula for physical, emotional, or informational support to a pregnant woman before, during, and after the delivery of a child including, but not limited to, support and assistance during labor and childbirth; prenatal and postpartum education; breastfeeding assistance; parenting education; and support in the event that an inmate has been or will become separated from the inmate’s child.

 

     5.    Section 1 of P.L.1977, c.102 (C.9:6-8.10a) is amended to read as follows:

     1.    a.  All records of child abuse reports made pursuant to section 3 of P.L.1971, c.437 (C.9:6-8.10), all information obtained by the Department of Children and Families in investigating such reports including reports received pursuant to section 20 of P.L.1974, c.119 (C.9:6-8.40), and all reports of findings forwarded to the child abuse registry pursuant to section 4 of P.L.1971, c.437 (C.9:6-8.11) shall be kept confidential and may be disclosed only under the circumstances expressly authorized under subsections b., c., d., e., f., and g. herein.  The department shall disclose information only as authorized under subsections b., c., d., e., f., and g. of this section that is relevant to the purpose for which the information is required, provided, however, that nothing may be disclosed which would likely endanger the life, safety, or physical or emotional well-being of a child or the life or safety of any other person or which may compromise the integrity of a department investigation or a civil or criminal investigation or judicial proceeding.  If the department denies access to specific information on this basis, the requesting entity may seek disclosure through the Chancery Division of the Superior Court.  This section shall not be construed to prohibit disclosure pursuant to paragraphs (2) and (7) of subsection b. of this section.

     Nothing in P.L.1977, c.102 (C.9:6-8.10a et seq.) shall be construed to permit the disclosure of any information deemed confidential by federal or State law.

     b.    The department may and upon written request, shall release the records and reports referred to in subsection a., or parts thereof, consistent with the provisions of P.L.1997, c.175 (C.9:6-8.83 et al.) to:

     (1)   A public or private child protective agency authorized to investigate a report of child abuse or neglect;

     (2)   A police or other law enforcement agency investigating a report of child abuse or neglect;

     (3)   A physician who has before him a child whom he reasonably suspects may be abused or neglected or an authorized member of the staff of a duly designated regional child abuse diagnostic and treatment center which is involved with a particular child who is the subject of the request;

     (4)   A physician, a hospital director or his designate, a police officer, or other person authorized to place a child in protective custody when such person has before him a child whom he reasonably suspects may be abused or neglected and requires the information in order to determine whether to place the child in protective custody;

     (5)   An agency, whether public or private, including any division or unit in the Department of Human Services or the Department of Children and Families, authorized to care for, treat, assess, evaluate, or supervise a child who is the subject of a child abuse report, or a parent, guardian, resource family parent, or other person who is responsible for the child's welfare, or both, when the information is needed in connection with the provision of care, treatment, assessment, evaluation, or supervision to such child or such parent, guardian, resource family parent, or other person and the provision of information is in the best interests of the child as determined by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency;

     (6)   A court or the Office of Administrative Law, upon its finding that access to such records may be necessary for determination of an issue before it, and such records may be disclosed by the court or the Office of Administrative Law in whole or in part to the law guardian, attorney, or other appropriate person upon a finding that such further disclosure is necessary for determination of an issue before the court or the Office of Administrative Law;

     (7)   A grand jury upon its determination that access to such records is necessary in the conduct of its official business;

     (8)   Any appropriate State legislative committee acting in the course of its official functions, provided, however, that no names or other information identifying persons named in the report shall be made available to the legislative committee unless it is absolutely essential to the legislative purpose;

     (9)   (Deleted by amendment, P.L.1997, c.175).

     (10) A family day care sponsoring organization for the purpose of providing information on child abuse or neglect allegations involving prospective or current providers or household members pursuant to P.L.1993, c.350 (C.30:5B-25.1 et seq.) and as necessary, for use in administrative appeals related to information obtained through a child abuse registry search;

     (11) The Victims of Crime Compensation Board, for the purpose of providing services available pursuant to the "Criminal Injuries Compensation Act of 1971," P.L.1971, c.317 (C.52:4B-1 et seq.) to a child victim who is the subject of such report;

     (12) Any person appealing a department service or status action or a substantiated finding of child abuse or neglect and his attorney or authorized lay representative upon a determination by the department or the presiding Administrative Law Judge that such disclosure is necessary for a determination of the issue on appeal;

     (13) Any person or entity mandated by statute to consider child abuse or neglect information when conducting a background check or employment-related screening of an individual employed by or seeking employment with an agency or organization providing services to children;

     (14) Any person or entity conducting a disciplinary, administrative, or judicial proceeding to determine terms of employment or continued employment of an officer, employee, or volunteer with an agency or organization providing services for children.  The information may be disclosed in whole or in part to the appellant or other appropriate person only upon a determination by the person or entity conducting the proceeding that the disclosure is necessary to make a determination;

     (15) The members of a county multi-disciplinary team, established in accordance with State guidelines, for the purpose of coordinating the activities of agencies handling alleged cases of child abuse and neglect;

     (16) A person being evaluated by the department or the court as a potential care-giver to determine whether that person is willing and able to provide the care and support required by the child;

     (17) The legal counsel of a child, parent, or guardian, whether court-appointed or retained, when information is needed to discuss the case with the department in order to make decisions relating to or concerning the child;

     (18) A person who has filed a report of suspected child abuse or neglect for the purpose of providing that person with only the disposition of the investigation;

     (19) A parent, resource family parent, or legal guardian when the information is needed in a department matter in which that parent, resource family parent, or legal guardian is directly involved.  The information may be released only to the extent necessary for the requesting parent, resource family parent, or legal guardian to discuss services or the basis for the department's involvement or to develop, discuss, or implement a case plan for the child;

     (20) A federal, State, or local government entity, to the extent necessary for such entity to carry out its responsibilities under law to protect children from abuse and neglect;

     (21) Citizen review panels designated by the State in compliance with the federal "Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act Amendments of 1996," Pub.L.104-235;

     (22) The Child Fatality and Near Fatality Review Board established pursuant to P.L.1997, c.175 (C.9:6-8.83 et al.); [or]          (23) Members of a family team or other case planning group formed by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency and established in accordance with regulations adopted by the Commissioner of Children and Families for the purpose of addressing the child's safety, permanency, or well-being, when the provision of such information is in the best interests of the child as determined by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency ; or

     (24) The Commissioner of Corrections for the purpose of determining eligibility of inmates for the nursery program established pursuant to P.L., c.   (C.        ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).

     Any individual, agency, board, court, grand jury, legislative committee, or other entity which receives from the department the records and reports referred to in subsection a., shall keep the records and reports, or parts thereof, confidential and shall not disclose the records and reports or parts thereof except as authorized by law.

     c.     The department may share information with a child who is the subject of a child abuse or neglect report, as appropriate to the child's age or condition, to enable the child to understand the basis for the department's involvement and to participate in the development, discussion, or implementation of a case plan for the child.

     d.    The department may release the records and reports referred to in subsection a. of this section to any person engaged in a bona fide research purpose, provided, however, that no names or other information identifying persons named in the report shall be made available to the researcher unless it is absolutely essential to the research purpose and provided further that the approval of the Commissioner of Children and Families or his designee shall first have been obtained.

     e.     For incidents determined by the department to be substantiated, the department shall forward to the police or law enforcement agency in whose jurisdiction the child named in the report resides, the identity of persons alleged to have committed child abuse or neglect and of victims of child abuse or neglect, their addresses, the nature of the allegations, and other relevant information, including, but not limited to, prior reports of abuse or neglect and names of siblings obtained by the department during its investigation of a report of child abuse or neglect.  The police or law enforcement agency shall keep such information confidential.

     f.     The department may disclose to the public the findings or information about a case of child abuse or neglect which has resulted in a child fatality or near fatality.  Nothing may be disclosed which would likely endanger the life, safety, or physical or emotional well-being of a child or the life or safety of any other person or which may compromise the integrity of a department investigation or a civil or criminal investigation or judicial proceeding.  If the department denies access to specific information on this basis, the requesting entity may seek disclosure of the information through the Chancery Division of the Superior Court.  No information may be disclosed which is deemed confidential by federal or State law.  The name or any other information identifying the person or entity who referred the child to the department shall not be released to the public.

     g.    The department shall release the records and reports referred to in subsection a. of this section to a unified child care agency contracted with the department pursuant to N.J.A.C.10:15-2.1 for the purpose of providing information on child abuse or neglect allegations involving a prospective approved home provider or any adult household member pursuant to section 2 of P.L.2003, c.185 (C.30:5B-32) to a child's parent when the information is necessary for the parent to make a decision concerning the placement of the child in an appropriate child care arrangement.

     The department shall not release any information that would likely endanger the life, safety, or physical or emotional well-being of a child or the life or safety of any other person.

(cf:  P.L.2012, c.16, s.22)

 

     6.    This act shall take effect on the first day of the seventh month next following enactment.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

     This bill establishes the “Female Inmates’ Rights Protection Act.” 

     Under the provisions of this bill, the Commissioner of Corrections is required to ensure that any prohibited acts that subject an inmate to disciplinary actions or sanctions are gender appropriate and is required to establish separate prohibited acts for male and female inmates.  In addition, the bill requires the commissioner to implement gender appropriate disciplinary actions and sanctions for any prohibited acts committed by an inmate.

     Further, the bill requires the commissioner to annually submit a report to the Legislature providing a summary of all disciplinary actions and sanctions imposed on inmates, which is to contain each inmate’s gender.

     In addition, the commissioner is required to institute mandatory in-service training for every correctional police officer assigned to the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women regarding gender responsive policies.  The commissioner is to ensure that every newly appointed correctional police officer completes the training upon assignment to the facility and every correctional police officer currently assigned to the facility completes the training within two years of the bill’s effective date.

     This bill also requires the commissioner to establish a nursery program allowing newborn children to remain with their incarcerated mothers if the female inmate gave birth to the child while incarcerated in a State correctional facility.

     Under the bill, an inmate is not eligible to participate in the program if:

     (1) the inmate has been previously convicted of, adjudicated delinquent for, or is currently serving a sentence imposed for any crime enumerated under the No Early Release Act;

     (2) a search conducted by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency in the Department of Children and Families of its child abuse registry, at the request of the commissioner, reveals that an incident of child abuse or neglect has been substantiated by the division against the inmate ;

     (3) the inmate has outstanding warrants;

     (4) the inmate has committed any prohibited act required to be reported to the prosecutor pursuant to regulations promulgated by the Commissioner of Corrections during the current period of incarceration, or has committed any serious disciplinary infraction, designated in regulations promulgated by the commissioner as a prohibited act that is considered to be the most serious and results in the most severe sanctions, within the previous two years;

     (5) the inmate has been previously convicted of, adjudicated delinquent for, or is currently serving a sentence imposed for a crime committed against a person under the age of 16; or

     (6) there is evidence of the use of a controlled dangerous substance during the inmate’s pregnancy.

     An inmate that is eligible to participate in the program is to be transferred to a residential community release program while participating in the program. 

     Unless there is a court order regarding child custody providing otherwise, a child in the program is to remain in the residential community release program until the child is two years of age or until the inmate is released, whichever occurs sooner.  In addition, the commissioner is required to provide accommodations for parenting time with the child’s other parent as agreed upon by the inmate and the child’s other parent or in accordance with a court order. 

     The commissioner is also required to provide support services for female inmates participating in the program, including parenting classes. The inmate is required to participate in all available prenatal and parenting classes.

     In addition, prior to being admitted into the program, an inmate is required to submit to a mental health evaluation by a psychologist or psychiatrist licensed in New Jersey, who, based upon the evaluation, is to make a recommendation to the commissioner regarding the inmate’s participation in the program.

     Finally, the bill requires the commissioner to provide doula services to pregnant inmates.  A person providing doula services is to be permitted to attend and provide assistance during labor and childbirth.  In addition, the bill requires the commissioner to allow an inmate to have a support person present during labor and childbirth.

     The bill defines “doula services” as services provided by a trained doula for physical, emotional, or informational support to a pregnant woman before, during, and after the delivery of a child, including, but not limited to, support and assistance during labor and childbirth, prenatal and postpartum education, breastfeeding assistance, parenting education, and support in the event that an inmate has been or will become separated from the inmate’s child.