prison system

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Anti-Shackling Bill, With More Medical Care For Pregnant Inmates, Poised To Become Law

A bill that would ban the use of restraints on pregnant inmates in labor (except in “extraordinary circumstances”) and also require more pre- and post-natal medical care for incarcerated women is about to become law in Massachusetts.

Here’s the specific language from the bill:

An inmate who is in labor, as determined by a licensed health care professional, delivering her baby or who is being transported or housed in an outside medical facility for the purpose of treating labor symptoms, shall not be placed in restraints.

An inmate in post-delivery recuperation, as determined by the attending physician, shall not be placed in restraints, except under extraordinary circumstances.

For the purposes of this section, “extraordinary circumstances” shall mean a situation in which a correction officer makes an individualized determination, approved by a superintendent, that the inmate presents an immediate, serious threat of hurting herself or others or in which the inmate presents an immediate and credible risk of escape that cannot be reasonably contained through other methods. In the event the correction officer determines that extraordinary circumstances exist, the officer shall document, in writing, the reasons for the determination and the specific type of restraints used.

Here’s more on the anti-shackling legislation from the NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts news release:

After over a decade of advocacy, members of the Massachusetts Anti-Shackling Coalition are celebrating unanimous votes in both the Massachusetts House of Representatives and State Senate that will send the Anti-Shackling Bill to the Governor’s desk for his signature.

“I was handcuffed by both my wrist and my ankle to the hospital stretcher for over eighteen hours while I was in labor,” said Michelle Collette, who was incarcerated at MCI-Framingham. “Today, the legislature moved us one step closer to making sure that no woman in Massachusetts will ever again experience what I went through when giving birth to my son.”

The.Comedian/flickr

The.Comedian/flickr

Representative Kay Khan (D-Newton) has filed some version of the Anti-Shackling Bill since 2001. In 2013, Senator Karen Spilka (D-Framingham) filed a companion bill in the Senate. Earlier this year, Governor Deval Patrick filed 90-day emergency regulations to immediately prohibit the practice of shackling pregnant women as a stopgap measure until the legislature passed the Anti-Shackling Bill. Last month, both the State Senate and State House unanimously passed versions of the bill. Differences between the two versions have now been reconciled and the final language has been enacted in both chambers….Since the emergency regulations were filed in February, advocates have heard reports of two incarcerated women who have gone into labor. Both were shackled during transport, and one was not unshackled when requested by medical personnel. Further, one was shackled in the hospital during labor and during postpartum recuperation without an individualized determination that “extraordinary circumstances” justified it. Continue reading

Ban On Handcuffing Pregnant Inmates In Labor Clears Hurdle In Mass. Legislature

A proposal to prohibit the scary practice of handcuffing pregnant inmates during labor has cleared its first hurdle through the Massachusetts Legislature. If passed, the so-called “anti-shackling bill” would “create uniform laws in county jails and the state prison system banning the shackling of pregnant women during childbirth and post-delivery recuperation — unless they present a specific safety or flight risk,” according to an earlier WBUR report.

(MOZ278/flickr)

(MOZ278/flickr)

“This bill has been on file for over a decade — the language has changed a bit — but it’s never seen the light of day,” says Megan Amundson, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts. The bill was reported out of committee on Friday, and now it will be given a new number and then most likely go to the House Ways and Means Committee, Amundson says.

Here’s more from the NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts news release:

In a step toward joining the 18 states that have passed legislation banning the shackling of pregnant incarcerated women, the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Public Safety has released the Anti-Shackling Bill, a bill the prohibits the practice of shackling pregnant women in our jails and prisons, sponsored by Senator Karen Spilka. The bill has now passed the first hurdle to passage.

“As hard as this is to believe, it is not unusual for pregnant women in Massachusetts jails to be handcuffed to the hospital bed even while in labor,” said Megan Amundson, Continue reading

Trapped Lives: Chilling Photos Of Mentally Ill Prisoners

(x1klima/flickr)

(x1klima/flickr)

There’s got to be a better solution.

That’s my takeaway after viewing “Trapped,” a chilling series of photographs by Jenn Ackerman (posted on Slate) that documents the daily injustices of some extremely troubled mentally ill prisoners at the Kentucky State Reformatory.

The pictures underscore the institution’s crass attempts to keep the inmates safe and also protect the corrections officers who manage them. Some examples:

–One inmate is cuffed to his cell and made to wear a “spit mask” used “to prevent him from spitting at the doctors and correctional officers.”

–Another prisoner “stares out of the cell he remains in for 23 hours a day.”

— A correctional officer wearing rubber gloves “comforts an inmate during one of his psychotic episodes” by sticking her fingers through a little slot into his cell. Continue reading

Vetoed: A Bill That Would Ban Shackling Pregnant Inmates During Labor

Granted, it’s hard to get inside the head of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to glean his thought process. But really, how could anyone possibly veto a bill to stop the deeply troubling practice of shackling pregnant female inmates in labor and during childbirth?

A California bill prohibiting the shackling of female inmates during childbirth is vetoed by the governor

This post on Our Bodies, Our Blog, lays out the details of the veto, but it’s just mind-blowing that this practice continues legally in some U.S. states — particularly because the California bill, AB1900, was approved unanimously by the state Senate and Assembly. The law would have required the state Corrections Standards Authority to develop standards on the shackling of pregnant women, and prohibited pregnant inmates from being shackled by the wrists or ankles during transport, labor and delivery, and recovery, unless deemed necessary for safety.

Karen Shain, policy director for the California group, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, wrote in an opinion piece in SFGate: “This veto is particularly mean spirited and only serves to support the stereotype that incarcerated women are dangerous and must be subdued at all times. During these horrendous budget times, when there is a steadily shrinking safety net, AB1900 was an inexpensive solution to a human rights problem.”