Each year, Missouri Appleseed selects 4-5 pieces of criminal justice legislation to support in the Missouri Legislature. These priorities are often represented in multiple pre-filed bills that, over the five months of session, will consolidate into a single House or Senate bill.
This year, Missouri Appleseed is advocating for:
- Banning shackling of pregnant women in jail
- Ensuring adequate nutrition for incarcerated pregnant women
- Eliminating the SNAP ban for individuals with drug felonies
- Eliminating Missouri’s regressive luxury tax on diapers and menstrual products
- Lowering jail phone rates to keep families connected
Shackling pregnant women inflicts substantial pain and restriction of movement. These women are already uniquely likely to suffer health risks—not only to themselves, but to their children. Risks that may be appropriate for non-pregnant incarcerated women, like the risk of a trip and fall, can become substantially more dangerous for pregnant incarcerated women.
The American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Public Health Association, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons (among others) all oppose shackling women during labor, delivery, and postpartum recovery; and dozens of states have implemented bans on the practice.
Recognizing these dangers, in 2018, Governor Parson signed an act preventing the shackling of pregnant women in prisons run by the Department of Corrections (R.S. Mo. § 217.151). Since this policy does not protect pregnant women in jails, we are supporting this new legislation to extend the shackling ban to women in all criminal justice facilities across the state.
Growing a healthy baby is hard work, and pregnant moms require extra calories to feed their little ones’ growing brains and bodies. Inadequate nutrition during pregnancy increases the risk for preterm birth, low birth weight, birth defects, and delayed childhood development.
The national Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends 340 extra calories in the second trimester and up to 450 extra calories in the third. Yet, for pregnant moms in Missouri jails and prisons, the state guarantees no extra food for these moms.
Incarcerated moms are more likely to suffer poor perinatal outcomes than non-incarcerated moms, including having preterm babies and babies at low birthweight. Making sure these moms get enough extra calories to support healthy pregnancies reduces their risk of poor birth outcomes. The pre-filed bills we support would require Missouri jails to provide prenatal vitamins; a minimum of thirty-two ounces of milk or a calcium supplement if lactose intolerant, two cups of fresh fruit, and two cups of fresh vegetables daily.
Federal law bans people with felony drug convictions from receiving food assistance through SNAP (the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, formerly the Food Stamps Program). The same law allows individual states to modify or lift the ban, however, and a number of states have chosen to do so.
Missouri is not one of those states – yet. Senators Mary Elizabeth Coleman and Lauren Arthur, along with Representative Chad Perkins, have introduced legislation to lift the SNAP ban on Missourians with felony drug convictions. Why? Access to food is an important component of successful reentry into society after incarceration.
Sponsors: Sen. Mary Elizabeth Coleman (R), SB 1119, Sen. Lauren Arthur (D), SB 842, Sen. Barbara Washington (D), SB 793, Sen. Curtis Trent (R), SB 1231 (diapers only), Sen. Karla May (D), SB 585, Rep. Justin Hicks (R), HB 1762, Rep. Maggie Nurrenbern (D), HB 1579, Rep. Wendy Hausman (R), HB 2112, Rep. Mark Sharp (D), HB 1474
Missouri taxes feminine hygiene products and diapers at 4.225% — but it taxes other important items at lower rates, like groceries at 1.225%. Many healthcare-related items are taxed at 0%!
Missouri’s tax on feminine hygiene products and diapers burdens poor people, because sales taxes on staple items are a larger economic hurdle the less money you have. Parents who can’t afford enough diapers report changing their babies’ diapers less frequently and even skimping on food purchases in order to afford diapers. Less frequent diaper changes put babies at risk for urinary tract infections, skin infections, and diaper dermatitis.
In a survey of low-income women seeking services from St. Louis community organizations, 64% couldn’t afford enough feminine hygiene products to manage their period at least once a year. 21% couldn’t afford enough every month. And 33.6% of girls in low-income St. Louis high schools report skipping schools because they didn’t have the period products they needed.
Missouri Appleseed believes feminine hygiene products and diapers should be exempt from sales taxes, making it easier for all women in Missouri to access necessary items for themselves and their babies. Read more here.
Sponsor: Rep. Aaron McMullen (R), HOUSE BILL NO. 2169
Due to the poverty of many people in jail and their families, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has capped interstate phone call rates from jails. Yet the FCC does not have the authority to regulate in-state jail phone calls, which means correctional communications companies can still charge people in Missouri jails and their Missourian families a lot to talk to one another.
Missouri Appleseed surveyed county and city jails in Missouri to determine what correctional communications company each jail uses, then contacted those companies to learn what they charge individuals to call home.
The results were astonishing: 30% of Missouri jails contracting with correctional communications companies had rates greater than the FCC’s cap of 21 cents per minute. One in five jails charged 35 cents per minute. If a person in one of those jails phoned their family for just 15 minutes per day while in jail for a year, it would cost them $1,916.25 just to stay in contact with their family. Missouri Appleseed believes that phone calls to families should not cost thousands of dollars. Plus, staying in contact with family improves health and reduces recidivism, leading to safer and happier Missouri communities.