Law bans shackling inmates while giving birth
April 17, 2012
By Angel Neal
Your Capital Bureau
Florida will be the first southern state to implement a Healthy Pregnancy for Incarcerated Women’s Act. It bans the shackling of woman who is incarcerated in jail, prison or detention facility during pregnancy and immediately after birth. It becomes law July 1.
The law was first introduced as a bill by Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa. A similar measure sponsored by Rep. Betty Reed, D-Tampa, failed to pass in 2011.
Reed said: “It has taken hard work and dedication on this bill to get to this point. Women can now feel safer while giving birth, no matter the circumstances.”
The new law “prohibits the use of restraints on a prisoner known to be pregnant during labor, delivery and postpartum recovery unless a corrections official makes an individualized determination that the prisoner presents an extraordinary circumstance requiring restraints.”
Prior to the new law, Department of Corrections workers were allowed to restrain inmates during their transport to and from medical appointments and handcuff them to their beds by one ankle after the baby’s delivery.
According to a DOC public information specialist, the new law will have little impact on Florida prisons and jails because employees are already doing what the new law requires.
“Pregnant inmates during labor and delivery are not shackled in the Florida DOC and other states they may be. The department has had no grievances filed by pregnant women in the past 10 years regarding restraints during labor in delivery,” said Jo Ellyn Rackleff, DOC spokesperson.
According to the DOC’s health services, there are about 80 Florida inmates who are currently pregnant and the number changes daily. Most pregnant inmates reside at Lowell Correctional Institute in Ocala, 20-25 on average. Late-term pregnant inmates (over 35 weeks) are housed at Broward Correctional Institute in Miami.
A DOC health services representative said the 80 women incarcerated today in prison, detention facilities or jails will likely give birth in a local hospital.
Five percent of women who enter prisons are pregnant and 6 percent of women in jail are pregnant, according to the Bureau of Justice statistics.
“Restraints on women during delivery pose a series of medical threats to both mother and baby. These women should and will now be treated with humane treatment,” said Joyner.
To read a summary of the law go to http://laws.flrules.org/2012/41.
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