|Action||Amend Minimum Standards for Jails and Lockups to add requirements on restraint of pregnant offenders|
|Comment Period||Ends 9/27/2013|
Justice Fellowship Support for Regulations to Limit Use of Restraints on Pregnant Inmates
Justice Fellowship, founded by the late Charles Colson, aims to restore the justice system based on biblical principles so communities are safer, victims are respected, and people who commit crimes are transformed. We have been grateful to work with the Virginia Department of Corrections, the Board of Corrections, law enforcement, and our coalition partners in developing and refining these regulations.
While we commend these proposed rules as compassionate, commonsense reforms essential for the life and well-being of both mother and baby, we urge the Board of Corrections to also include a strong public reporting requirement in the new rules to ensure accountability for and compliance with the regulations. Local and regional jails have not made publicly available the data on the number of pregnant inmates who have been restrained, using what type of restraints, and under what circumstances. Right now, the proposed regulations do not provide meaningful oversight through public reporting of the instances in which pregnant inmates are restrained under the exceptions to the regulations approved by the Board.
Additionally, the exceptional circumstances in which women are restrained above routine practice should only be in cases where women pose a “serious” flight risk or danger to herself or others. In the course of refining these regulations, some correctional officials reported all inmates can be considered a flight or safety risk just by the nature of their being an inmate. Using additional restraints should require an individualized assessment that a woman poses a serious flight and safety risk to prevent the exception from swallowing the rule.
Finally, we urge that the proposed regulations be amended to say “inmates may be restrained in the least restrictive method” where there is an individualized determination of a serious flight or safety risk. Following birth, it is critical for a woman to remain unrestrained to prevent postpartum hemorrhage and to foster bonding between the mother and infant. Given the health and safety risks posed at this stage, the default policy should not include restraints.
We urge the Board to make these amendments and approve the final regulations. Thank you.