Minimum Standards for Jails and Lockups [6 VAC 15 ‑ 40]
|Action||Amend Minimum Standards for Jails and Lockups to add requirements on restraint of pregnant offenders|
|Comment Period||Ends 9/27/2013|
Commenter: Dorothy-Anne Johnson
Restraint of Pregnant Prisoners
Restraint of Pregnant Prisoners
- As a Virginia Registered Nurse, I commend the Board of Corrections’ approval of long overdue regulations limiting the use of restraints on pregnant inmates. I thank the Board for implementing a compassionate and commonsense policy, and urge the Board to make these proposed regulations final.
- I urge the Board of Corrections to include a strong public reporting requirement in the regulations to ensure accountability for and compliance with the regulations. Right now, the proposed regulations do not provide meaningful oversight through public reporting.
- Restraining a pregnant woman can pose undue health risks to the woman and her pregnancy. Restraining pregnant women is dangerous and inhumane. Restraining pregnant inmates increases their chances of accidentally tripping or falling, and harming their pregnancies. During labor and postpartum recovery, restraints can interfere with appropriate medical care and can be detrimental to the health of the woman and her newborn child.
- Freedom from physical restraints is especially critical during labor, delivery, and during postpartum recovery. Women often need to move around during labor and recovery, including moving their legs as part of the birthing process. Restraints on a pregnant woman can interfere with the medical staff’s ability to appropriately assist in childbirth or to conduct emergency procedures. Following birth, it is critical for a woman to remain unrestrained to prevent postpartum hemorrhage. Freedom from restraints after delivery also fosters postpartum bonding between a mother and her newborn, which is essential to the healthy development of the child.
- The vast majority of female prisoners are non-violent offenders who pose a low security risk—particularly during labor and postpartum recovery. In the states that have outlawed restraint of pregnant inmates, there have been no documented instances of a woman in labor or delivery escaping or causing harm to themselves, security guards, or medical staff.
- National correctional and medical associations oppose the restraint of pregnant women because it is unnecessary and harmful to a woman and her pregnancy. The Federal Bureau of Prisons, the U.S. Marshal Service, the American Correctional Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Association, and the American Public Health Association have recognized that restraining women during labor, delivery, and postpartum recovery is unnecessary and dangerous to a woman’s health and well being and may harm her child.
- It is cruel and unusual punishment to restrain a pregnant woman during labor and delivery. Restraining a woman during labor demonstrates a deliberate indifference to an inmate’s serious medical needs, and constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, running counter to long-established Supreme Court precedent protecting prisoners’ constitutional rights.