Bill To Unshackle Pregnant Prisoners Passes First Hurdle

By PW Staff
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Jan. 26, 2010

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Hot off the press release:

HARRISBURG, January 26, 2010 – Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Delaware/Montgomery) expressed gratitude that his bill to prevent the shackling of pregnant prisoners was unanimously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee at a committee meeting today.

Senate Bill 1074 would for the first time create a statewide policy to prohibit the shackling of pregnant women in custody in Pennsylvania during labor and delivery, while in transit to a medical facility for delivery or other pregnancy-related complication, and for a reasonable period of time post-delivery. That question currently is decided on the local level, which Leach said adds to unnecessary confusion about a policy that should be tightly regulated.

“Though I am not a woman and have never experienced childbirth, it takes only the slightest amount of critical thinking to determine that a woman in labor is not at her strongest and most agile,” Leach said. “The flight risk is extremely low, so to endanger a woman and her unborn child during birth simply because she is under custody of the state is misguided. Correctional officers are highly trained individuals who can discern and diffuse a dangerous situation without needing to preemptively shackle a woman in labor who has posed no threat to herself or to those around her.”

The bill would provide an exception that allows shackling if the corrections official believes there is a risk of flight risk or to the health and safety of medical personnel. In the event of such a risk, the bill would require the attending corrections official to report the circumstances leading to the decision to apply restraints.  If the decision was made on the county level, the report must then be given to the state Department of Corrections.

S.B. 1074 would also require that the Department of Corrections provide a yearly update to the governor detailing each instance of shackling made by a county or state prison.  That information would be made available for public review on the governor’s website,

The bill will now move to the full Senate for consideration.

More information about S.B. 1074, including a podcast about the issue featuring Kathleen Creamer, staff attorney with Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, is available on Leach’s Web site,  

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