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Shackles may be removed from pregnant inmates

Though this woman committed a crime and is serving time, the inhumane law of being shackled while pregnant needs to change.
Though this woman committed a crime and is serving time, the inhumane law of being shackled while pregnant needs to change.

Washington, D.C. news station WJLA through the Associated Press reported a story Wednesday on extending a law for pregnant inmates who are shackled. Maryland delegates will look over a bill introduced by Delegate Mary Washington (D-Baltimore). The bill was introduced before but remained at a standstill.

There are similar bills in place regarding shackling of pregnant women in several states but if the bill that Washington introduced is passed, it will extend the limitations and possibly stop this inhumane procedure. This would imply to women during labor and delivery.

All states should follow California’s law on pregnant incarcerated women. The Huffington Post article on October 11, 2012 called “Shackling Pregnant Inmates Banned Under California Law, But Many States Allow The Practice” explained what California did under its Assembly to do the following act –

On Sept. 28, a new bill was passed into law in California, making the state one of the first in the country to completely ban the practice of shackling pregnant inmates during pregnancy, labor, delivery and recovery.

Alicia Walters, a reproductive justice advocate with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Northern California, writes:

In 2005 California became one of the first states to prohibit the shackling of incarcerated pregnant women during labor, delivery, and recovery after childbirth. Now, we can proudly say that California has taken another step forward to protect the health of incarcerated women -– this time by prohibiting shackling throughout pregnancy.

Under the new law, California prisons will no longer be allowed to use "leg irons, waist chains and handcuffs behind the body on women who are pregnant or who are in recovery following the birth of a child unless deemed necessary for the safety of the inmate, the staff, or the public." The bill also requires that "shackles be removed for emergency medical treatment."

However, in two out of three states, pregnant inmates can be shackled to their hospital beds while giving birth.

According to ABC News, the practice is permissible in 33 states, even when pregnant inmates are "being held exclusively for immigration-related offenses." Incarcerated women can also be shackled throughout their pregnancy.

"Pregnant women in correctional facilities are more likely to experience miscarriage, pre-eclampsia, preterm birth, and low birth weight infants, all of which seriously jeopardize the health of the mother and, in many cases, her newborn," Toni Atkins, the assembly member who introduced the new legislation in California, said in a press release. "Shackling increases these risks by causing women to fall and by making emergency medical care more difficult to administer."

According to and other sources, the American Medical Association (AMA) has officially deemed the practice unsafe, "medically hazardous," and "barbaric."

Despite this cruel treatment toward pregnant prisoners, there is a story the New York Times reported called "Settlement for a Shackled Pregnant Woman" of a woman who won a lawsuit in Nashville, Tenn. in October 2013. Her story is below.

More on the Maryland bill can be read below.

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