Bill would prevent shackling of inmates during childbirth

BOSTON (State House News Service) – A legislative committee has recommended a bill that would prohibit state and county correctional facilities from shackling pregnant women during child birth, according a coalition of human rights and medical groups.

The Joint Committee on Public Safety has released the bill (S 1171) sponsored by Sen. Karen Spilka, an Ashland Democrat. Advocates are now urging House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray to pass the measure quickly. “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, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts. “It is inhumane and puts the woman’s and the fetus’s health at risk.”

The legislation would make Massachusetts the 19th state to ban county jails and the state prisons from shackling pregnant women during childbirth and post-delivery recuperation unless they present a specific safety or flight risk. Under the current system, each county jail in the Department of Corrections has its own policy. The bill would also establish standards for treatment and medical care for women in jail who are pregnant.

“It is absurd that each prison or jail in the Commonwealth has its own policies on whether, when, and how they shackle pregnant women,” said Gavi Wolfe, legislative counsel for the ACLU of Massachusetts. “There should be one across-the-board standard: we don’t do it.

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