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Va. Prisons to Ban the Shackling of Pregnant Inmates

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.

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