Sometimes I am shocked to discover what I don't know. I would never have imagined that female prisoners are shackled during labor.
I don't even know what to say about this, except that I hope it ends. Can't we welcome the child into the world with as much love and positive energy as possible? Any birth should be gently encouraged. I wonder sometimes why there is so much stress, anger, and hatred on the planet and then, I read this, and think of how a certain percentage of us enter the world, and see why it is a bumpy road for many. May this practice soon change in every state in the country.
Childbirth in Chains
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists called several years ago for an end to the barbaric and medically hazardous practice of shackling female prisoners during labor. In addition to further frightening these vulnerable women, the practice of chaining their legs, wrists and even their abdomens makes treatment and delivery more difficult and places mother and child at greater risk of harm.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons must have had these facts in mind last fall when the bureau ended the routine use of restraints for women in labor and limited shackling to cases in which a woman presents a danger to herself, the baby or the staff. Five states have similar policies. New York would become the sixth — if Gov. David Paterson signs an antishackling bill that sailed through the Legislature this spring.
The bill has caused a debate about how many pregnant women are actually shackled in New York. But recent interviews of female inmates by the Correctional Association of New York, a nonprofit group that monitors prison conditions, suggests that the practice may be more common than corrections officials know. In any case, the bill would put an end to it, by establishing clear guidelines that carry the authority of law.
Modeled on federal prison policy and laws in other states, the New York bill would prohibit women from being shackled while being taken to the hospital for a delivery. A woman could be cuffed by one wrist in cases in which she presented a danger to herself, hospital staff or corrections workers. But it seems highly unlikely that a woman doubled over in labor pains would be able to attempt an escape or overcome corrections officers.Governor Paterson, whose staff members have recently been quibbling with technicalities in the bill, should make it clear whether he thinks the measure needs minor changes or clarifications. Otherwise, he should sign the bill into law and bring New York into line with the federal government and the other states that have wisely acted to protect pregnant inmates and their children during labor.