Va. Prisons to Ban the Shackling of Pregnant Inmates

by ARLnow.com August 18, 2011 at 10:35 am 7,071 43 Comments

The Virginia Department of Corrections will prohibit the shackling of pregnant inmates during labor and post-partum recovery, Del. Patrick Hope announced this morning.

Hope introduced a bill earlier this year to ban the practice. The bill was defeated but supporters were able to pressure the department to change its internal policies without the need for legislation.

Here’s the press release from Hope’s office announcing the planned change in policy.

The Virginia Department of Corrections is planning to implement regulations to prohibit the shackling of pregnant inmates in Virginia’s prisons. The regulation is modeled after legislation (HB 1488) introduced by Delegate Patrick A. Hope (D-Arlington) in the 2011 legislative session and supported by the following organizations: 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.

Specifically, the regulations prohibit the use of restraints on pregnant inmates during labor, delivery, or post-partum recovery. Front-end handcuffs may be used but only during transport. Additional restraints may be used if a determination is made that the inmate poses a danger to herself or others. The regulations take the additional step in requiring documentation when additional restraints are used.

Delegate Hope worked with Virginia Department of Corrections Director, Harold Clarke, for several months on this in-depth policy and offered high praise saying, “Director Clarke recognized the importance of spelling out a policy that protects the health of the mother and her unborn child. He deserves a lot of credit for taking this significant, bold step.” Delegate Hope continued, “This policy sets the tone for other correctional facilities such as our county and regional jails to follow suit. I hope they will also spell out similar regulations.” The Department of Corrections only has jurisdiction over Virginia’s prisons.

With this regulation, Virginia’s prison system joins ten other states — California, Colorado, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, New York, Texas, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia – who have banned the practice. The Federal Bureau of Prisons and the U.S. Marshals Service also have policies that block the shackling of inmates during childbirth.

Hope is running for reelection to the House of Delegates this year. He faces Independent Green Party candidate Jennifer Stanley.

  • Mike Oksmal

    This guy actually gets stuff done, very quietly and very effectively. Why they don’t want him to run for state Senator is beyond me.

    • normal

      It’s because he actually gets stuff done, very quietly and very effectively. That’s frowned upon.

    • charlie

      probably the primary reason to vote for Jamie is to bitch-slap the “establishment” which told Hope it “wasn’t his turn.”

  • Bender

    So quiet that he’s here sending out glowing press releases tooting his own horn.

    • Bender

      Moreover, this is far from a “ban.” Rather, it merely provides that use of restraints will be decided on a case-by-case basis depending on the risk posed by a given prisoner, and that documentation of those risks needs to be made in writing, rather than assuming that everyone is a risk of escape or danger to others.

      On another note, is everyone comfortable with Hope’s favorable inclusion of that anti-choice term “unborn child” in his press release?

      • jjbug1

        your comment about the unborn child is very significant!

        Shall we have 900 billion earth humans in 10 years or are we willing to deny women without support to have babies? I don’t mean to deny gay or lesbian couples! I’m talking about heterosexual relationships that do not last long enough to raise a child!

    • normal

      He got it done quietly though. Now that it’s done, he’s saying so. Nothing wrong with that. It’s his job to tell you what he’s doing.

  • R.Griffon

    Meh. Seems to me we’ve got MUCH more important stuff that needs done, and areas in much greater need of reform.

    I’ve got nothing against the guy, but if this doesn’t reek of “feel-good” legislation, then I don’t know what does. I guess elections are coming up, after all…

    • normal

      Yes, we do. So what? The fact that we have big problems doesn’t mean he shouldn’t solve small problems. The fact that he’s solving small problems doesn’t mean he isn’t working on the large problems.

      • R.Griffon

        > The fact that we have big problems doesn’t mean he shouldn’t solve small problems.

        Actually, it does. Every minute spent on do-nothing issues like this is a minute NOT spent solving budget, education, infrastructure, or any other significant issue. I might concede if it was a case of “Hey, this intersection is dangerous and has too many accidents … let’s find money to get it fixed.” That’s an issue that is extremely minor on the grand scale of state gov’t, but would be worth a little time IMHO. Funding worthwhile initiatives and/or organizations probably the same. But this? What’s the point? Are we concerned about the child? The kid won’t remember. And the mother? God forbid an inmate have unsavory memories of their incarceration and not want to return. So I don’t get it.

        I guess it just comes down to whether or not you think this was worthy to begin with. I think it was a silly waste of time.

        • normal

          But that’s not true. The idea that he’s diverting time from the important issues is simply false. The General Assembly meets and works on these issues when it is in session for about a month or two. It’s not like he has to devote every minute of his life to the serious problems or they won’t get taken care of. Come on.

          The rest of your post reveals that you don’t even consider this to be a problem at all, so you should just say so.

        • Josh S

          There are a MILLION things to do. You can’t do them all at once. You pick and choose. Here is an issue that Hope could make a difference on. He took it as his and he ran with it. This builds goodwill. It builds respect. Perhaps after he has more experience and respect, he can then use that goodwill and respect to tackle more wide-ranging issues. In the meantime, we can all feel a little happier, I think, that we don’t live in a state that shackles women as they are giving birth.

        • Maeve

          It’s not just compassionate, it saves money. Why? Shackling an inmate during childbirth is bad medicine. Women birth faster and with fewer complications if they are allowed to move around and reposition themselves during childbirth. Faster, easier births means fewer caesarians, fewer complications, fewer taxpayer dollars spent on medical care or on interventions for a ward of the state with birth injuries.

          • jjbug1

            Why do you want an imprisoned woman to bear a child there? Can she take care of the child? Does the father want the child to live?

            It must be fun to be impregnated before you sit in court defending your innocence, but really, with the world population mounting, we do not want children given to people who are in prison, may not have spouses to support the baby, nor have a job, A baby needs complicated support that usually requires the mother to be at home to breastfeed. If that is not possible, since the mother is in prison, forget her hopes and see she has an abortion!

    • Josh S

      Meh? Meh?

      Next time you’re elected to the state House of Delegates, let us know what you get done……

  • KalashniKEV

    Another good idea from the Good Idea Fairy.


    • normal

      Sure beats making things even worse.

  • Steve

    More “equality” from leftist groups. Why don’t they just admit that they seek SPECIAL PRIVILEGES for women and be done with it?

    • SimplyDusty

      Yes, let’s consider the unshackling of pregnant male inmates.

      • novasteve

        Boo hoo, cry me a river. Either you are equal, or you are not.You liberals can’t have it both ways. Special privileges is NOT equality. My advice to pregnant woman, dont’ commit crimes, and you wont’ worry about being shackled. Treat everyone the same. Stop seeking special privilegs and then crying about equality.

        • Josh S

          Huh? I have no idea what this post means, but it sounds mean spirited. Care to elaborate?

      • normal

        LOL! It’s almost like steve is trying to step in poop.

    • Josh S

      I’m afraid Steve, we’re going to have to insist you add some sort of identifying suffix or prefix to your name. We’ve got steve85 (who you sound vaguely like, but you didn’t misspell anything, so I’m not sure), novasteve, etc. Just plain “Steve” is unsettling and disorienting.

  • Funny

    Well if you follow what he is trying to do in Richmond you would see there is a lot more going on. He has tried to do some great things but has been blocked by some extreme right ideology (read Cucunelli) and the Governor.

    • DSS10

      The problem is that by not going through the legislature it allows the more Conservative members to tacitly approve the legislation by not contesting it and not having to confront their base for being “soft on crime.” Having seen both of my children being born and the physical stress of child birth I can’t imagine how a mother during or immediately after child birth being either a flight risk or capable of physical violence.

  • charlie

    Hope is a good strong liberal compassionate Democrat. Remember those? He is one. He deserves better and I hope to see him in the Governors Mansion one day.

    • Patrick

      The VA Governors Mansion? Haha. That is about as likely as the entire Arlington County Board being made up of republicans.

      • normal

        Or a black guy in the Governor’s Manion, or the White House for that matter.

        Oh, wait.

  • JimPB

    Cheers to Delegate Hope for getting this change to humaneness, especially so since humaneness toward prisoners is not a big vote winner.

    Next step: Safety for prisoners from physical and sexual assaults.

    • Josh S

      Actually, I believe in the olden days we used to respect a person for doing something despite the likelihood that it would result in no personal gain. It might even have been called integrity or something like that.

  • novasteve

    Special privileges is NOT equality.

    • normal

      All pregnant male inmates are covered by this policy too, steve.

      Jeez, some people go out of their way to look ridiculous.

      • Judith

        Here! I’ve got an idea: Suppose you agree that he can’t actually have babies, not having a womb – which is nobody’s fault, not even the Romans’ – but that he can have the *right* to have babies . . .

  • John Fontain

    So basically, they can still restrain the inmates just like before, they just have to document it when they do.

  • ManPerson

    Who gives a rats ass? Seriously! Why aren’t these goddang politicians working with business and industry to get more jobs in VA….instead they are trying to figure out how to protect pregnant prisoners? You must be kidding me!

    • AllenB

      While the unemployment is too high, VA is still doing quite nicely relative to the rest of the country.

    • normal

      They’re doing BOTH.

      Jeez, the guy solved a very small problem. All he did was issue a news release. All this blog did is report on it. Move on.

      • Josh S

        It is remarkable the quantity of mean-spiritedness that we discover exists in Arlington…..

    • Sarah

      Yeah, ManPerson. It’s not like there’s any good reason to help the least among us. The poor and suffering don’t need our compassion. I mean, let’s just help the rich, the healthy, and the privileged. They’re the ones who really need it.

  • Civic Activist

    1) Making ANY change in a large bureaucracy is quite time consuming. He is to be commended for following through on this issue even if it does not rise to the level of Federal Deficit reduction.
    2) Representatives from the Peoples’ Republics of Arlington and Alexandria go to Richmond with a built-in disadvantage: they are simply not taken seriously. When a bill is defeated 99 to 1, you know it reprsents an “Arlington Value”. Patrick is fortunate to have any victory to point to!

  • Pingback: Two More Victories against Inhumane Treatment of Imprisoned Women « MomsRising Blog()

    • This is NOT TRUE! The Rappahannock Regional Jail in Stafford County, Virginia is still shackling their pregnant female inmates before, during and after their deliveries. I have proof of this one! It is August 8, 2012!

  • Pingback: Tennessee and Virginia Agree: Stop Shackling Pregnant Women | Find A Local Lawyer – Find Your Attorney()


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