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New state law bans shackling of pregnant inmates during transportation

Posted 22 December 2015 at 12:00 am

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo

ALBANY – Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo today signed legislation relating to the restraint of pregnant inmates. The bill (A.6430-A/S.983-A) prohibits the use of restraints during the transport of all pregnant inmates at state and local correctional facilities, and within eight weeks after the delivery or pregnancy outcome, except in the most extraordinary of circumstances.

“These common sense reforms strike the right balance that protect the health and dignity of a pregnant inmate, while also addressing public safety concerns,” Governor Cuomo said. “This legislation has made New York’s criminal justice system fairer and stronger and I thank the sponsors and advocates who worked so hard to get it passed.”

Orleans County is home to the Albion Correctional Facility, a women’s prison with about 1,000 inmates, as well as the county jail that has a section for women.

While current law prohibits the use of restraints on an inmate about to give birth, it does not address the use of restraints on pregnant inmates prior to or after childbirth or pregnancy outcome.

Currently, restraints are being used on pregnant inmates in a number of situations ranging from trips to weekly medical appointments, to trips between prisons, which can take more than 10 hours. This poses tremendous health risks to both the mother and child. It heightens the risk of blood clots, limits the mobility needed for a safe pregnancy and delivery, and increases the risk of falling, which can possibly cause a miscarriage.

In addition to the shackling provision, the bill also prohibits the presence of any correctional staff in the delivery room unless requested by medical staff or the inmate giving birth, requires more rigorous training of all correctional staff on this policy, and institutes annual detailed reporting of all instances in which officers deem restraints necessary.

“The anti-shackling law will finally put an end to the practice of subjecting women in prison to the painful, humiliating and unhealthy practice of shackling women throughout pregnancy including labor and delivery,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU.

Sonia Ossorio, president of the National Organization for Women in New York, said, “Banning the shackling of pregnant incarcerated women is just the latest in a significant list of game changing reforms Governor Cuomo has prioritized and accomplished in 2015. From the historic Women’s Equality Act to extending discrimination protections to transgender individuals to making our prisons more humane and safe. It lifts my heart and makes me proud to be a New Yorker.”