Prison Law Blog

Sara Mayeux

Washington State Considers Ban on Shackling Pregnant Women

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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.

Written by sara

February 2, 2010 at 11:07 am

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