Posts Tagged ‘shackling’
As a reluctant connoisseur of anonymous Internet comments, I have noticed that versions of the same comment sprout up like weeds at the end of any article regarding prison or jail conditions: “If inmates don’t want to be treated this way, maybe they shouldn’t commit crimes!” Well, readers of today’s News-Herald needn’t leave such comments, because the editorial board has beaten them to it:
While we support greater accountability and consistency, and while we don’t feel women should be shackled to the extent they suffer lasting hip and back injuries while giving birth, as an Arkansas women alleges in a lawsuit, we feel the better way for mothers to avoid these problems is simply to stay out of prison in the first place.
You know, I’m sure the mothers in question also “feel” that it would have been “better” “simply to stay out of prison in the first place.”
Earlier this week, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed AB 1900, which would have banned the shackling of incarcerated women who are pregnant, absent a security risk. The bill was supported by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and had passed without any “no” votes in the state legislature. Here is a response from Karen Shain of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children.
This year’s edition of the annual Shaking the Foundations conference, put on by students at Stanford Law School, will feature a panel entitled “Locked Up and Locked Out: Reproductive Rights of Women in Prison.” The panel will be Saturday, October 15, featuring the following speakers:
- Kim Buchanan, Associate Professor of Law, University of Southern California, Gould School of Law
- Sara Ainsworth, Senior Legal & Legislative Counsel, Legal Voice
- Amy Fettig, Adjunct Professor, Georgetown Law School/Staff Counsel, ACLU National Prison Project
- Sally Lieber, Former State Assembly Member, State of California
- Carolyn Sufrin, M.D., Clinical Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of California, San Francisco/Women’s Health Specialist, San Francisco Department of Public Health/Jail Health Services
Other panels of possible interest to readers will cover immigration reform, wrongful convictions, healthcare for transgender people, and more. The cost for the two-day conference is $5 for students, $20 for other attendees, and includes three catered meals. You can register online at this link.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will soon be presented with AB 1900, which would extend California’s current prohibition on shackling inmates during labor to also limit the use of restraints on pregnant women while they are being transferred, except in cases of a clear security or flight risk. The bill has the support of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, among a host of other groups. The ACLU of Northern California’s Reproductive Justice Project has a form email you can send here urging Gov. Schwarzenegger to sign the bill into law.
Less than half of youth in state custody (whether residential placement or a juvenile detention center) report having access to a lawyer. That and other statistics are available in the new report, “Conditions of Confinement: Findings from the Survey of Youth in Residential Placement,” published by the DOJ’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The study is based on a survey of a representative sample of youth in custody, so keep in mind the limitations of self-reported data as you read the report. Here are some other data points that may be of particular interest to readers of this blog:
- Notice of rules: 75% of youth report they received a copy of the rules in their facility, 90% feel the rules are fair, and 75% feel they apply equally to all residents.
- Grievance process: 19% say they don’t know how to file a complaint, and 20% say they are concerned about retribution if they do.
- Fairness of punishment: Half of youth report that staff impose punishment without cause, over one-third think that staff use unnecessary force, and less than one-third say punishments are fair.
- Solitary confinement: Almost one-fourth of youth report being placed in solitary confinement as punishment. Over one-third report being isolated in some way (either sent to their room with no contact with other residents, or placed in a separate lock-up). Of those who were isolated, over half say their isolation lasted longer than 24 hours.
- Physical restraint: Over one-fourth of youth report that staff have used some form of restraint on them, whether handcuffs, wristlets, a security belt, chains, or a restraint chair. Just 4% report being placed in a restraint chair and 7% report being pepper sprayed. These last-resort restraints may have effects beyond the individuals on whom they’re used: 30% report living in a unit where one or more residents was pepper sprayed, and 29% report living in a unit where one or more residents was placed in a restraint chair.
As reported by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Washington DOC will pay a $125,000 settlement to former inmate Casandra Brawley, who was shackled while giving birth in April 2007 at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tacoma. Partly in response to Brawley’s case, Washington has since passed legislation banning the practice of shackling inmates during childbirth. In her lawsuit, Brawley was represented by Legal Voice, a women’s rights nonprofit, and the Seattle law firm Peterson Young Putra. More information on this case as well as Legal Voice’s anti-shackling advocacy efforts more generally is available at the Legal Voice website.
The Washington state legislature is currently considering a bill to restrict the use of shackling on pregnant women inmates:
If the legislation passes, Washington will become the seventh state in the country to ban the use of restraints on pregnant and laboring incarcerated women. Most recently, New York, New Mexico and Texas have all passed laws prohibiting the use of shackles on pregnant women in nearly all circumstances.
State governments have found the practice to be cruel and unusual punishment, inhumane, degrading and a violation of human rights standards. And medical organizations from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Public Health Association to the American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM) have forcefully condemned the practice as wholly unsafe for both mother and baby.
The question of shackling has been in the news lately, so I thought I’d provide a quick roundup of links: Here’s an article on a woman who was shackled while pregnant in Maricopa County, Ariz. (linked to earlier in last week’s Friday Roundup). The ACLU of Rhode Island is suing the state to obtain information on its shackling policy. The Eighth Circuit, sitting en banc, ruled in October 2009 that a prisoner’s lawsuit challenging the practice as a violation of the Eighth Amendment can proceed, and that it is a clearly established point of constitutional law “that an inmate in the final stages of labor cannot be shackled absent clear evidence that she is a security or flight risk” (Nelson v. CMS, et al., No. 07-2481, 8th Cir., Oct. 2, 2009, p. 19). The federal Bureau of Prisons revised its policy in 2008 to bar shackling of pregnant inmates in all but the most exceptional cases.
From the New York Times: A New York state judge has called for the repeal of the state juvenile prison system’s policy of routinely shackling juvenile offenders when transporting them to court — with no individualized determination of whether the youth poses a danger, and even for those kids in custody for minor offenses like truancy or graffiti:
Justice Tingling found that the agency’s policy violated the state’s own law on shackling youths in custody, which states that shackles should be used only as a last resort, for youths who are dangerous and uncontrollable by any other means, and then only for half an hour. And shackles can be used during transport only when the youths pose a physical threat, the judge found.