The Alliance for Progressive Values strongly supports House Bill 836 (Del. Hope) which would end the dangerous and inhumane practice of shackling pregnant prisoners even when in labor, except in rare and extraordinary circumstances.
During the process of giving birth, women often need to move and change position as a natural consequence of being in labor. This is a fact of life that does not change even if the women in question are incarcerated. During labor it is extremely important that a woman have the freedom to find new positions that make her comfortable and that facilitate the delivery. The practice of shackling either at the waist or at the extremities puts potentially dangerous stresses on the pregnant woman's body and on the fetus she is carrying. After delivery, during postpartum recovery women will continue to need the freedom to move without constraint so as to better bond with their newborn. This experience is critical to building the mother's relationship with her child and in the child's healthy development.
During labor, delivery and recovery, freedom from restraint also serves to allow the attending medical staff to more easily and effectively do their jobs. Emergency procedures could be hampered by the presence of shackles and it is imperative that during postpartum recovery women retain freedom of motion to avoid the potential for internal hemorrhaging.
Furthermore the practice seems to be an unnecessary one as there are no reports of women attempting to escape during labor or delivery in the states that have restricted shackling. Nor have there been any instances of guards, medical staff or the public being injured by unshackled prisoners in the process of giving birth or in the period directly before or after.
The shackling of pregnant prisoners is repugnant on its face and it should be stopped immediately. The Alliance for Progressive Values joins other faith based and civil rights organizations as well as medical and national correctional associations in condemning the practice and supporting new legislation to prohibit it in the future.
Please tell the House of Delegates to vote yes on HB 836.