Rebecca Project in NY Times

Published: August 21, 2009

New York must embrace legislation that would put an end to shackling pregnant prisoners during labor.

Obstetricians and other medical professionals have long called for an end to the barbaric and medically risky practice of shackling pregnant prisoners – by their legs, wrists and even around their abdomens – during labor. The Federal Bureau of Prisons ended routine shackling last year and limited the use of restraints to instances in which the women were at clear risk of harming themselves, their infants or others.

Five states and the New York City corrections system have adopted similar policies. Even so, a bill that would end shackling in New York’s state prisons and county jails that sailed through the Legislature seemed in danger of being vetoed because of strong opposition from corrections officials. Aides say that Gov. David Paterson has now decided to sign this important bill.

Critics argued that the legislation was unnecessary, because the state prison system had limited the use of shackling nearly a decade ago. But accounts by present and former inmates suggest that the guidelines have too often been ignored by the officers who transport women to and from the hospital.

The claim that women doubled over in pain and about to give birth pose a serious danger seems especially far-fetched. The Rebecca Project for Human Rights, the Washington-based group that is campaigning to end these policies nationally, says that states with anti-shackling laws report no documented cases of women in labor attempting escape or trying to hurt someone.

Governor Paterson’s staff has problems with a minor provision of the bill that deals with how pregnant women are transported to the hospital. But those issues can be addressed in regulations or in supplementary legislation. What’s important is that New York embrace a humane, medically sound and safe policy.

Read Article from NY Times…


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