Monday, November 26, 2012

Shackling Going the Way of the Dinosaur?

Believe it or not, it's still pretty common for pregnant female prisoners to be shackled while giving birth ... apparently because a woman giving birth is a big danger to others during that painful and precarious time.  [Please note our sarcasm.]

But there have been some positive signs recently that the shackling of pregnant women may be beginning its slow march to extinction.  California passed a law banning the shackling of pregnant inmates during pregnancy, labor, delivery, and recovery.  And in today's Washington Post, this article describes how Virginia's Board of Corrections is joining the ranks of states that ban or limit the practice of shackling during labor.  But we still have a long way to go:  two out of three states still allow or require this shackling.

FAMM raises this issue to highlight how we treat prisoners in this country.  They are human beings and former and future neighbors, yet we deny them the most basic dignity during one of the most human, life-altering, and intimate moments of their lives.  We've often highlighted on this blog what it really means to go to jail or prison -- what comes as part and parcel of punishment -- and being shackled while giving birth is one of those very real consequences that thousands face.  It's not enough to say, "Oh, well, they broke the law -- they have to live with the consequences."  We have to look at those consequences and question whether they are humane and just.  We are happy to see more states taking that hard look and making that examination when it comes to shackling pregnant inmates.

-- Stowe