Despite Law, Imprisoned Mothers Still Shackled While Giving Birth

prison

From the Guardian:

Imagine being pregnant and going into labor. Now imagine having handcuffs around your wrists attached to a chain, leading to a chain wrapped around your waist. Another chain leads from your waist to your feet, where cuffs keep them only inches apart. This is a practice known as shackling.

Across the United States, prison policy dictates that people be shackled whenever they are transported outside the prison. Many states make no exceptions for women in labor, childbirth or postpartum recovery.

In 2009, after extended advocacy and lobbying from prisoner rights organizations, New York passed legislation that bans the use of restraints on women during labor, delivery, and postpartum recovery. It largely bans the use of shackles on women who are taken to the hospital for a caesarean section or to be induced, as well as when women are returning to the prison from the hospital. But shackling continues to be a common reality for mothers who give birth while in New York state’s prison system.

Maria Caraballo was five months pregnant when she arrived at Bedford Hills, New York’s maximum-security prison for women. In February 2010, nine days after her due date, she was taken to Westchester Medical to be induced. She had learned about the anti-shackling law the month before and, as officers prepared to place her in the van, she told them it was against the law to shackle her. “You have no choice,” she said the officers told her. “If you refuse we’re going to write you up.”

Read more at the Guardian