Press Club

Group Wants Pregnant Inmate Shackling Ban Expanded

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.

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