Listen Up: Laboring And Delivering In Shackles

NPR ran a segment last week about the shacking of incarcerated women in labor – a shockingly common practice. You can listen to the piece below, and find out more about pregnant women’s rights here.

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Transcript available here.
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Join the Conversation

  • gwye

    So pregnant women shouldn’t have to go to jail? Or do we delay their sentences so they can have the baby? Or what?

  • saintcatherine

    Hey, Did you listen to the piece at all? It was about women *in labor* being shackled.

  • saintcatherine

    I heard it on the radio and thought it was rather tame, as far as depicting what a terrifying nightmare it must be to be in labor while shackled. The stories could have been told in much worse terms.
    One thing that struck me was how the wardens they talked to seemed suprised by the very thought that maybe it wasn’t humane. Not like they were just a**holes–which maybe some are– but, that they never thought about it before.
    Like it didn’t occur to them that a woman in labor deserves any different considerations at all from mere women-behind-bars, or dangerous-female-prisoners.

  • Brianna G

    Well, you could simply make sure that there was at least one easily-secured room in the nearest OB ward, with nursing staff trained to handle escape attempts or violence and COs stationed in the halls, so shackling was unneccessary. If the nearest hospital to each county jail has one secure room that functions like a cell for labor, why bother shackling them?
    Or you could require women’s prisons to have an ob-gyn on staff, so they could both provide routine gynecological and prenatal care, and assist in deliveries without requiring a hospital trip except for extreme cases.
    There are plenty of ways to treat women humanely if they are pregnant in prison, without compromising security.

  • sempai

    Asking tax payers to pay tens of thousands of dollars for a security detail every time a criminal gives birth probably isn’t going to gain a lot of traction in your community.

  • BrainPickerTem

    I don’t have time to listen to the piece right now, but I will later. This is (or should be) just plain unacceptable.

  • borrow_tunnel

    I don’t think the question is “When does labor occur?” but “How many women in our nation’s history have committed murder while in labor?” (i.e. after the water has broken)

  • attentat

    I hate it when prison issues come up on this site because everyone who thinks prisons are just totally fine and dandy comes out of the woodwork to defend them right down to their most horrible and degrading practices.

  • Brianna G

    Well, actually, that makes sense.
    They shackle prisoners all the time for transport and court. To a healthy person, shackling is inconvenient, maybe mildly uncomfortable, but not the end of the world. They also routinely shackle prisoners for medical transport, because prisoners DO fake illnesses, pregnant prisoners fake labor, and even the genuinely sick prisoners will sometimes mount escape attempts from the hospital. Usually, it’s not actually that big a deal to shackle someone getting, say, a mole removed, or recovering from anesthesia. So they don’t see the difference with birth.
    Of course, the difference is that birth often requires movement for comfort, pain relief, and to aid delivery, and thus should be restricted only as much as it would be in, say, a physical therapy session, where presumably people are not shackled. However, considering the tendency with birth is to assume normal medical practices apply until corrected, the tendency in prisons to apply policies designed for men to women, the sheer rarity of births in prison in your average facility (one a year? maybe?), and the even greater rarity of it happening to a woman or the friend of a woman who has the power and resources to know it’s wrong and fight it, the wardens probably genuinely never considered the unique needs of laboring women.

  • Brianna G

    It’s not a question of murder. It’s a question of escaping custody. They’re worried about women escaping.
    It still seems strange to picture a 9 month pregnant laboring woman managing to escape, though.