Agencies | Governor
Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Corrections
State Board of Local and Regional Jails
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
Stage Proposed
Comment Period Ends 9/27/2013
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7/29/13  9:27 pm
Commenter: James E. Burke, Arlington Interfaith Council; Virginia Interfaith Center

Comments on shackling policy

Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

The Board of Corrections’ approval of proposed regulations limiting the use of restraints on pregnant inmates is just and proper. The Board is to be commended for implementing a compassionate, commonsense policy, and should take the action to make these proposed regulations final.
Right now, the proposed regulations fall short in providing meaningful oversight through public reporting. As part of the final regulation, the Board should include a strong public reporting requirement in the regulations to ensure accountability for and compliance with the regulations.

I believe that the Board understands the unjust and even barbaric aspects of restraining mothers in birth:
-Restraining a pregnant woman can pose undue health risks to the mother and her child. In addition to being dangerous and inhumane, restraints increases the potential for accidents and harm to the mother and the child. During labor and postpartum recovery, restraints can complicate medical care and can retard recovery of the mother and her newborn.
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.

Thank you for your compassion in moving towards a more just, humane policy that encourages one of life's most sacred events to be free from artificial constraints that could harm the mother and child.

CommentID: 28696