Vote 2020 graphic
Everything you need to know and expect about
the most important election of our lifetime.

Most Prisons Still Shackle Female Inmates While They're Giving Birth

Illustration for article titled Most Prisons Still Shackle Female Inmates While Theyre Giving Birth

Did you know that most U.S. states — 33, to be exact — allow prison officers to shackle female inmates to their hospital beds while they are giving birth?

Advertisement

California is no longer one of them — Univision reports that the state recently passed a law that will ban jails from using "leg irons, waist chains and handcuffs behind the body" on women during labor, delivery or recovery — but the fact that the Golden State is in the minority makes it all the more obvious that prisons are ill-equipped to deal with female inmates.

Shackling pregnant women isn't just disrespectful (to say the least); the American Medical Association has officially deemed the practice unsafe, "medically hazardous," and "barbaric." That hasn't stopped prisons from doing it — even in Illinois, which has anti-shackling laws, a class-action lawsuit filed by 80 female inmates claimed they were shackled while giving birth as well as recovering. (They won a $4.1 settlement.)

Advertisement

It's not like most of the women being restrained are sociopaths or mass murderers, either. Univision's Cristina Costantini points out that immigrant detainees who are only guilty of crossing the border are often victims of the practice, even if they're just "detained":

Federal prisons and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) do not shackle pregnant inmates during the birthing process. However, if a woman goes into labor while placed on a so-called immigration "detainer," a period in which ICE asks local authorities to hold inmates for possible deportation, she will be subject to shackling policies of the local authorities, which vary state-by-state. For those jailed for immigration offenses, the treatment seems particularly extreme, [Malika Saar, an advocate who heads an anti-shackling coalition with The Rebecca Project for Human Rights] said.

"Pregnant women are the most vulnerable and the least threatening in the prison system and should rarely, if ever, be restrained," Alicia M. Walters, a reproductive justice advocate with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Northern California, wrote after California passed the new law. Will more states follow suit?

Should a Woman Be Shackled While Giving Birth? Most States Think So [Univision]

Image via Pavlov Mikhail/Shutterstock.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

BettyBoudreauxElectricPeanut
BettyBoudreauxElectricPeanut

Okay, I'm not saying I think this is right - but I'd like to know if this is really a huge issue. How many pregnant inmates give birth while in custody a year? Of the 33 states that allow you to shackle a pregnant woman, how many officers actually take advantage of this and shackle the pregnant women? Of the women that were shackled, how many were actually shackled during delivery, and did it pose a health risk to them and their babies? (Labor can last for hours or days, so it's not necessarily crazy that a woman taken to the hospital and in the first stages of labor is shackled - they're reasonably mobile at that point)

If we want to make the point that these women are non violent criminals and heck, probably shouldn't even be in prison, that's one thing, but that's a completely different argument