The state of New York is illegally shackling incarcerated women during childbirth, according to a new report on reproductive justice from the Correctional Association of New York.
“Women continue to be shackled on the way to the hospital (even when they are in labor), during recovery (even within hours after giving birth and for long periods of time), and on the way back to the prison (even with waist chains just days after having a C-section),” the report said. New York passed an anti-shackling statute in 2009, but according to the Correctional Association, “23 of 27 women the CA surveyed who gave birth after the law went into effect said they were shackled at least once in violation of the statute.”
In many ways, the state of New York is abusing pregnant incarcerated women all over again, given that 90 percent of all incarcerated women experienced sexual and physical abuse before heading to prison, according to the report.
Every year nearly 2,000 women give birth in America’s prisons and jails. Being jailed is a traumatic experience for women in and of itself, given the lack of training and concern for incarcerated women. But “this trauma is compounded by the lack of supportive services to help women grapple with the issues that led them to prison and the challenges they face once inside, including being separated from their families,” the Correctional Association said. Dani McClain, writing at Truthout, reported that, “Women who are not pregnant use newspaper and magazines while on their periods because they are not provided an adequate number of pads.”
Now, couple pregnancy with incarceration and one can only imagine the horror that pregnant inmates face. In New York, pregnant women complained that prison officials did not provide them with enough food, adequate prenatal care, vitamins, heat, ventilation or privacy. The report highlighted how such an environment left many women “feeling depressed and ill-equipped to find stable homes for their babies.”
Clearly, the shackling of pregnant of women is an incredibly painful experience. “Shackling causes physical and psychological pain. It heightens the risk of blood clots and limits the mobility that someone needs for a safe pregnancy and safe delivery. It can cause fetal death,” the Correctional Association’s Tamar Kraft-Stolar said.
Shackling can also cause pulled groin muscles and the separation of pubic bones. And because of the potential for injury, many states have restricted the practice. Yet some states, such as California, Texas, and New York, have struggled to fully ban such inhumane treatment, according to The New York Times. But the fact that many prison officials maintain the idea that it is okay to shackle pregnant women, speaks to a broader hatred and lack of compassion for women generally.
“We need to stop sending pregnant women to prison in the first place. It’s unacceptable that the law is being violated, but we need to stop locking up so many women, especially so many pregnant women,” said Kraft-Stolar.
Photo: Yanina Manolova/AP