Group Wants Pregnant Inmate Shackling Ban Expanded

by ARLnow.com August 26, 2011 at 10:24 am 4,138 35 Comments

A group is asking that the state legislature take action to ban the shackling of pregnant inmates at regional and local jails in Virginia.

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture is pressing for the ban after Arlington’s Del. Patrick Hope succeeded in getting the state Department of Corrections to codify its pre-existing prohibition on the shackling of female inmates during and immediately after labor. The newly-implemented policy only applies to state prisons, however, not to local and regional correctional facilities.

“As people of faith, the members of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture recognize that restricting women prisoners during childbirth strips away the dignity from the sacred moment of a new life entering the world, desecrates the sanctity of both birth and life, and endangers the health and well-being of both mother and child,” the group said in a statement. “The cruel and inhumane practice of shackling in Virginia is a problem beyond the jurisdiction of the [Department of Corrections]. Virginia should join the 13 states that have enacted legislation to prohibit this barbaric practice. ”

Hope wants to do just that.

“Getting the Department of Corrections leading the way is a great thing,” he said. “They’re making [the policy] department wide… They’re sending a message that, I hope, the local and regional jails will mirror.”

Hope says that he will now ask local and regional facilities to change their policies internally, before pressing for legislation next year. Hope tried to sponsor an anti-shackling bill this year, but it failed to get out of a House of Delegates committee.

The Arlington County Sheriff’s Department, which runs the county jail, says it does not shackle pregnant inmates during labor, and only handcuffs one hand to the rail of the hospital bed during postpartum recovery, according to a recent article by The Crime Report. An inmate who gave birth 11 years ago, however, told the publication that she was shackled during the entire 12-hour delivery.

“Virginia cannot declare a victory in putting an end to the appalling practice of shackling of women inmates during childbirth until the Virginia General Assembly passes a law prohibiting it in all jails and prisons, at all levels, across the state,” the National Religious Campaign Against Torture said.

  • JamesE

    That prison cell looks nicer than my dorm room.

    • (another) Greg

      Maybe, but you could leave your dorm room any time you wanted.

    • G Mason

      Yeah, this looks exactly like my dorm when I studied abroad in London.

  • Your Mom

    F’em. If they cared about contributing to society they probably wouldn’t have ended up in jail in the first place. Chain them to the wall.

    • Thes

      Jails house some people who have only be *accused* of a crime, and not convicted of one. Apparently these policies apply to everyone, whether they’ve been convicted or not and whether or not they are deemed to be dangerous.

      • Sam

        Not quite. Jails do hold people that are awaiting trial and are only accused. Prisons hold people who have been convicted. This applies to state prisons, not jails.

        • Thes

          Um. No. Did you read the article?

          • Sam

            Yes, did you?

            “The newly-implemented policy only applies to state prisons, however, not to local and regional correctional facilities.”

          • Thes

            Right, so the point of the article is to get the policy applied to jails, where some innocent people reside.

          • Sam

            You’re absolutely correct. My apologies. I misread the article.

  • Southeast Ben

    Why should we care? If they are incarcerated, they shouldn’t be allowed to have offspring. We as a society will not only be paying for the mother’s free ride in the prison system, but will also be supporting the child without a mother.

    • Maria

      You should care because no child deserves to enter the world that way. Obstetricians recognize that women who are in labor need to be able to freely move around and to assume different positions throughout the birthing process. During the final stages of labor, it is especially important for the physician to be able to act quickly in order to avoid potentially life-threatening emergencies for both the unborn baby and the mother.

      • Rebecca

        Maria, no one is saying they can’t move around if they are shackled. the just can’t run around. It’s not like there are strapped to the bed with a 1inch chain.

        • Thes

          Are you sure? Sometimes they might just use handcuffs, which would be about the same thing.

      • R0bespierre

        If all children deserved our equal concern, we wouldn’t bother inserting our own genes into certain ones in the first place. Sometimes you just gotta hand out Darwin awards. Yes, I am a lizard hsssssssssssssssssssssss.

      • Silent Majority

        I just hope the obstetrician sterilizes them while they’re at it. If you find yourself pregnant and jailed, you’re done passing on your DNA.

        • Sam

          So, people should be punished before they even go to trial? Jails=awaiting trial, Prison=convicted.

          I’m glad you’re not in charge. Why not just institute the death penalty for anyone who seems suspicious?

    • Smilla

      You should care because you’re a human being.

      Yeesh. I’m so glad that most of the commenters on ARLNow aren’t representative of my county.

      • Southeast Ben

        Still don’t care and how does the mother being in shackles have anything to do with the child coming into this world? Are miscarriages statistics directly linked to shackles?

        And I’m representing proudly the views of many people on ARLNow.

        • Funny

          No you really aren’t representing people’s views.

          • Your Mom

            Funny, Southeat Ben is representing my opinion and the opinions of lots of other folks in the community. This article is dumb. Maybe since you care so much about the treatment of prisoners, you can figure our a way to do some volunteer work at the ARL jail. Might give you a little practicle perspective on the types of people law enforcement has to deal with everyday. I’m sure these ladies are class acts.

          • R0bespierre

            I agree with Mrs. Funny.

  • I wonder if female inmates have to be shackled during conjugal visits. Some guys may like that, leading to an easier pregnancy.

    • Ben

      Or the reverse – if inmates know pregnancy leads to better treatment – they will be more likely to get pregnant during incarceration to get better treatment.

      • R0bespierre

        I was about to point this out. Also that I am available for contract services on short notice. No inmate too ugly! Ok not sure where I am going with that last comment

  • CW

    Why does this keep coming up? I realize that Hope is local and thus is it relevent. But is this all that Hope has done in his tenure? Are other local politicians not doing anything?

    Could this article perhaps qualify the issue by listing the number of inmates to which this is actually relevant? This strikes me as the definition of an artificial wedge issue – incendiary in creating responses, but actually impacting an extremely low number of individuals. There must be something more pressing out there!!

    • Jezebel

      It is far from the only thing Del. Hope has done, but, it is the kind of story that attracts comments, and eyeballs on blogs, and therefore it is reported on by media.

      The editor here clearly knows his audience.

  • KalashniKEV

    Convicts should wear their chains.

    • Thes

      Some of the people in jail are not convicts. They some of them haven’t even had a trial yet and may be innocent.

  • Arlwhenever

    Since the instance of alleged shackling was in Arlington County detention, I think the advocates of this Bill have a gripe with Arlington County and the Sheriff’s office. Oh, I forgot — the local officials are Democrats and can do no wrong — it’s those evil Replublicans in the state house and the governor’s mansion who must be held accountable for not stopping the Democrats.

    • Aaron

      Winner winner chicken dinner!

      You’d think a big swinging richard like Patrick would just be able to mosey into the Justice Center, throw down his HoD pin and tell Arlington’s jailers to shape up or he’ll bring the full wrath of the ACDC down on them.

      • Thes

        The article says Arlington doesn’t shackle during labor. The only allegation that they ever did is from before Sheriff Beth Arthur took office. So what is there left to discuss, except getting the same policy established for women in labor elsewhere in Virginia?

    • Your Mom

      Right on the money.

  • CW

    Editorial note: In my opinion, “extended” connotes a lengthening of a period of time over which a proposal would be effective. “Expanded” would connote an increase in the scope of the provision, which is the actual intent of the proposal.


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