U.S. Prison Reform Should Prioritize Pregnant Women
Stephan Grabner and Laura Barrios – Policymic – Wednesday, 23 May 2012 (originally published 16 May)
Congress should prohibit the shackling of female inmates in their third trimester of pregnancy and during active labor in all U.S. correctional facilities. A standardized training program should be created for all correctional officers who work with inmates during labor, delivery, and postnatal recovery.
In 2006, the UN Human Rights Committee called upon the U.S. to follow the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and “prohibit the shackling of detained women during childbirth.” 19 states still allow the practice in their correctional facilities and in doing so act against recommendations from the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the American Medical Association, which in 2010 denounced the practice as “barbaric” and “medically hazardous” to a woman’s health and well being.
Shawanna Nelson was detained for non-violent crimes when six months pregnant. As a result of being shackled during labor, Nelson now suffers from permanent back pain and a damaged sciatic nerve. In the following lawsuit, Nelson v. Correctional Medical Services ADC (2009), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit concluded that the shackling of inmates during childbirth is a form of cruel and unusual punishment and as such prohibited by the 8th Amendment. Despite this ruling and mounting pressure from civil rights organizations, many states have no legislation prohibiting the practice . . .
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