Anti-Shackling Bill Passed by New York State Legislature

By Rachel Walden — May 27, 2009

A bill that would prohibit the shackling of pregnant, incarcerated women in labor has passed both the New York state House and Assembly (A03373/SO1290) and is on its way to the governor for a signature.

The bill allows women to be cuffed by one wrist during transfer if they are deemed to be a risk to themselves or others, or a flight risk, but otherwise forbids any mechanical restraint during transport, when a woman is in labor, “admitted to a hospital, institution or clinic for delivery, or recovering after giving birth.”

In the Justification section for the Assembly bill, it is noted that:

According to Amnesty International, New York State is still one of the many states that permits the shackling of pregnant inmates. In New City, a 1990 consent decree agreement ended the shackling of pregnant inmates. The use of mechanical restraints on a pregnant inmate constitutes a cruel and inhumane form of punishment and poses a serious risk to both the mother and her unborn child.

Amnesty International provides details on policies from all 50 states on the use of restraints on pregnant women in custody. It notes that, in addition to the New York bill, only two other state departments of corrections have legislation regulating the use of restraints on pregnant women.

A letter of support for the bill from Human Rights Watch provides additional reading and references on the topic, as does the OBOS web content Organizing for Change: Women’s Anti-prison Activism.

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