WOMEN

Listen To Women Describe The Horror Of Being Shackled While Pregnant

It's still perfectly legal to shackle incarcerated pregnant women in New York, but that may soon change.

"It's just so degrading."

"I know I made a mistake, but this is a totally different punishment that no one deserves."

"It was the most dehumanizing, embarrassing, degrading, animalistic thing that I have ever experienced."

Those are the words of formerly incarcerated women in New York who were shackled while pregnant -- a practice that is still totally legal in the state, but might not be for much longer.

A state bill that would outlaw the use of shackles on incarcerated women during all stages of pregnancy is headed for New York governor Andrew Cuomo's desk.

A new video, produced by The Correctional Association of New York, a nonprofit group that monitors prison conditions in the state, features a handful of women talking about the physical and emotional pain of being shackled while pregnant.

A few women described tripping and falling while shackled. One woman dropped her child. Another woman tearfully recounted having a miscarriage while being handcuffed to a hospital bed. 

"We are confident that [the bill] will be on the governor's desk by the end of the year and confident that he will do the right thing and sign the bill," said Tamar Kraft-Stolar, formerly of the Correctional Association of New York and now co-director at the Women & Justice Project.

In 2009, New York banned the shackling of incarcerated women during childbirth (including labor and recovery), but by law women were still allowed to be shackled during the rest of her pregnancy. However, a report earlier this year found that the legislation was not being properly implemented. 

The 2015 Anti-Shackling Bill, which passed the state legislature this summer, strengthens the 2009 law and extends the ban on shackling to include the entire pregnancy, and an eight-week postpartum period.

It also prohibits correctional staff from being inside the delivery room during the birth, unless requested by the woman or medical professionals.  

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists opposes shackling women during labor because of the significant health risks associated with the practice, including "increased likelihood of falls, trauma and limited access for treatment during medical emergencies."

Once the bill lands on Cuomo's desk, he will have 10 days to either sign or veto it.  

Melissa Jeltsen covers domestic violence and other issues related to women's health, safety and security. Tips? Feedback? Send an email or follow her on Twitter.

 

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