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Del. Hope Proposes Bill to Unshackle Pregnant Inmates

by ARLnow.com — January 28, 2011 at 10:30 am 2,522 35 Comments

Del. Patrick Hope (D), who represents part of Arlington County, has proposed a bill that would prohibit the shackling of a pregnant inmate during labor and postpartum recovery.

Hope says that his bill has the support of medical organizations, the ACLU, Planned Parenthood and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, among others. Ten other states have passed similar legislation.

“Shackling pregnant women is dangerous and inhumane. Excessively restraining prisoners and detainees during pregnancy increases their chances of accidentally tripping or falling, and harming their pregnancies,” Hope said in a statement. “During labor and postpartum recovery, shackling can interfere with appropriate medical care and can be detrimental to the health of the woman and her newborn child.”

The bill, HB 1488, is set to be considered by a House of Delegates subcommittee today.

See the press release from Hope’s office after the jump.

RICHMOND – Tomorrow, a House subcommittee will consider legislation, HB 1488, seeking to prohibit the shackling of pregnant inmates during labor, transport to a medical facility, delivery, or postpartum recovery in the commonwealth’s correctional facilities. Patroned by Delegate Patrick A. Hope (D-Arlington), this legislation is praised by health care professionals and a chorus of advocates in favor of protecting the health of a female inmate and her pregnancy.

“Shackling pregnant women is dangerous and inhumane. Excessively restraining prisoners and detainees during pregnancy increases their chances of accidentally tripping or falling, and harming their pregnancies,” said Del. Patrick Hope.” Hope continued, “During labor and postpartum recovery, shackling can interfere with appropriate medical care and can be detrimental to the health of the woman and her newborn child.”

Ten other states have signed similar legislation into law. If HB 1488 passes both the House and Senate, Virginia would also join California, Colorado, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, New York, Texas, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia among the states that have banned the practice via state law. The Federal Bureau of Prisons and the federal Marshalls Service also have policies that block the shackling of inmates during childbirth. Public health professionals, including the American Public Health Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, oppose the practice and support bills to ban it.

HB 1488 is modeled after a Resolution (see below) unanimously adopted by the American Medical Association in their June 2010 Annual Meeting.

“The vast majority of female prisoners are non-violent offenders who pose a low security risk—particularly during labor and postpartum recovery,” said Katherine Greenier, Director of the Patricia M. Arnold Women’s Rights project at the American Civil Liberties Union of VA (ACLU-VA).

“In the states that have outlawed shackling of pregnant inmates, there have been no documented instances of a woman in labor or delivery escaping or causing harm to themselves, security guards or medical staff.”

While advocates are not able to quantify how many times inmates in childbirth have been shackled in Virginia’s prisons, there is enough national anecdotal evidence to indicate the need for the legislation, Greenier said. Many states, including Virginia’s Department of Corrections, don’t make available statistics on when or how pregnant inmates are restrained.

“We hope the Virginia legislature will take notice of the harm to the mother and baby’s health when the mother is restrained in this way,” Carla Peterson, Director of VA Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants (VA-CURE) said. “It is simply an inhumane and unsafe practice.”

This bill is supported by the American Medical Association, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Virginia Chapter of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Legal Aid Justice Center, ACLU of Virginia, NARAL Pro-Choice-Virginia, Planned Parenthood-Virginia, VA CURE, and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.

Patrick A. Hope is a Member of the Virginia General Assembly as the Delegate from the 47th District representing part of Arlington County. He serves on the House Courts of Justice Committee and House Health, Welfare, and Institutions Committee.

  • Newt

    Are pregnant inmates a problem? Other than going to jail pregnant, how does one get pregnant behind bars?

    • http://blacknell.net/dynamic MB
      • Newt

        Thanks MB

    • http://arlingtondirt.blogspot.com/ TGEoA

      The stork knows no boundries.

    • charlie

      Newt, are you serious? urges don’t stop just because you are in jail. role playing or not.

  • KalashniKEV

    This guy has so many good ideas!!!

  • Lou

    A law based purely on anecdotal evidence? Sounds about right for this guy.

    • mehoo

      Why do you say it’s only anecdotal? And why does it matter? If there’s shackling, this would stop it, if there isn’t, no problem anyway.

      • Lou

        Because I took the time to read.

        • mehoo

          So did I. There is no indication that this is based on nothing more than anecdotes.

          • Lou

            They do not keep statistics, so there is no quantifiable evidence. Did you miss that part when you read?

          • mehoo

            Ah, got it.

          • Bury the Damn Power Lines


  • Newt

    According to the article that “MB” posted, some of the inmates are violent during child birth and have attacked guards. I don’t foresee a right or wrong answer here. Maybe it should be based on the inmate just like many of the other privileges they can or can’t receive in the clink.

    • mehoo

      Heck, lots of women giving birth attack whoever is near, especially the father for getting them into that mess in the first place.

      • Katie

        Particularly relevant since it’s usually the guards who fathered the children.

        • Westover

          “Usually”? Where do you get that BS statistic/assertion?

        • KalashniKEV

          Usually. Yeah, happens all the time. It’s a win/win and they get to learn new hooker skills and deepen their disrespect for authority…


          Have you ever heard of a conjugal visit? Or how about getting pregnant right before you go in just to have access to the larger meal portions, sympathy of the other women, better treatment by the guards…

          • mehoo

            While it’s reasonable to question the idea that guards get them pregnant, you can’t resist coming up with your own ridiculous assumptions. Getting pregnant before doing time to get better treatment? Yeah, right.

          • KalashniKEV

            From the NYT article above: “About 5 percent of female prisoners arrive pregnant, according to a 1999 report by the Justice Department.”

            I know scum reproduce at a faster rate, but I’d be surprised if a snapshot at any given time of low lifes would reveal a 5% figure.

            Getting pregnant prior to incarceration does get you better treatment, and if you’re lucky enough to get knocked up prior to your sentencing hearing, it’s just another sympathy plea to throw at bleeding heart judge.

          • Bury the Damn Power Lines


  • ClarendonKing

    Gives a whole new definition to the term: Anchor Baby…Zing!

    • KalashniKEV

      Haha… that was awesome.

      • DouroDouro

        Yeah, dude, TOTALLYYYYYY

  • RCE

    Labor is one thing.How long is postpartum recovery in Hope’s thoughts? All that time to devise a way to leave the hospital while uncuffed. Politicians are so glib about other folks’ safety. Hope could care less about the hospital staff, doctors, nurses, the Deputy in the room who is required to be armed outside the jail. None of those folks are the first thot to Hope. He’s only thinking about the effects of this, in the next election, on all the idiots out there that think this is a wonderful thot.

    • mehoo

      Right. Politicians don’t do things because they’re good. He’s just catering to the pregnant inmate vote.

      • Bury the Damn Power Lines


  • Breaking News

    This just in: Incidents of Female Prisoners Faking Labor Up 75%!

  • Arlwhenever

    The proposed bill, like laws adopted elsewhere in states such as Texas, doesn’t actually “prohibit” shackling, rather it requires a decision to shackle or not shackle be made based on the risk of violence/escape. A big thumbs down to Hope, his staff and allies for distortion and misleading hyperbole in their press release.

    • mehoo

      That’s a point in favor of the bill. You’re right, he should be more clear.

      • Bury the Damn Power Lines

        9 and the beat goes on. Get a job mehoo

        • mehoo

          Wrong, that’s 10.

    • Bender

      Case law on the constitutional rights of prisoners ALREADY prohibits any actions that would increase dangers to prisoners with respect to medical care. So having a law requiring that “a decision to shackle or not shackle be made based on the risk of violence/escape” is superfluous.

      • Lou

        Redundant law is redundant.

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