The American Correctional Health Services Association website discusses the use of shackles on pregnant inmates. Similar to the sexual freedoms of the institutionalized, the issue of shackling women during labor is a matter of sexual and reproductive freedoms of incarcerated women. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics,
“…there were 115,779 females incarcerated in US prisons (6.9%) and 99,673 females incarcerated in US jails in June of 2008 (12.6%).(1) It has been reported that 6 % of all incarcerated females are pregnant.(2) Currently only three states and the Federal Bureau of Prisons have policies that expressly prohibit the use of restraints or shackles during labor and delivery; many states’ policies do not specifically address the issue.”
1.Bureau of Justice Statistics, March 2009, NCJ225619.
2. Fearn N. E, Parker K. Washington State’s residential parenting program: An integrated public health, education and social service resource for pregnant inmates and pregnant mothers. California Journal of Health Promotion. 2004; 2(4): 34–48.
The website, the American Correctional Association, and the standards of the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, mandate that correctional facilities meet recognized community standards for inmate healthcare.
The NCCHC’s position statement on women’s health advocates for the collaboration of both Women’s Advocacy Groups and Correctional Health Services, to construct policies and procedures that are informed on the special health needs of women who are incarcerated. The position statement also recommends that guidelines established by specialty professional groups such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) should be construct policies, and to guide the care of incarcerated females. The ACOG have publicly supported a ban on the use of shackles during labor and delivery,
“physical restraints have interfered with the ability of physicians to safely practice medicine by reducing their ability to assess and evaluate the physical condition of the mother and the fetus, and have similarly made the labor and delivery process more difficult than it needs to be; thus, overall putting the health and lives of the women and unborn children at risk. Typically these inmates have armed guards on-site, which should be more than adequate to protect personnel helping a pregnant, laboring woman or to prevent her from fleeing.” (3)
(3) Open letter dated June 12, 2007 to Malika Saada Saar, Executive Director, The Rebecca Project for Human Rights.
The website says that The United Nations Human Rights Committee
“reported in their Eighty-seventh session, July 2006, that the continued shackling of detained women during childbirth after a previous recommendation to cease this practice went unheeded by the United States was against the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”(4)
4. United Nations Human Rights Committee, Eighty-seventh session, July 2006, page 11.
Additionally, the ACHSA recommends that women be handcuffed in the front instead of the back during their second and third trimester of pregnancy.
The site advocates for patients by extending information about conferences, statistics about incarcerated women and pregnancy, membership access, and career paths. However, the corporations main goal is to educate. They provide education, skill development, and support for personnel, organizations, and correctional health decision makers. The rights of these incarcerated women in relation to the sexual freedoms of the institutionalized is evident. Each group is apart of an inpatient atmosphere, where their lives are dictated by the facilities they live in. Additionally, each group is marginalized and suppressed by their affiliation with either the criminal justice system, or mental insanity. In each case, their human dignity comes into question. Furthermore, both the correctional facilities and the mental institutions, have an obligation to ensure autonomy in decisions about their inmate patients and promote a safe environment.