A lawsuit was filed on Thursday against the New York Police Department after officers forced a Bronx woman to give birth while shackled and handcuffed in February. The lawsuit seeks damages for violating the woman’s civil rights and asks for a change in the Police Department’s policy to ensure a pregnant woman is never shackled again. Further, the lawsuit states that shackling the pregnant woman, who the suit identifies as Jane Doe, was a violation of a 2015 state law that does not allow restraints on a woman during pregnancy, delivery, and the eight-week postpartum recovery period.
According to the lawsuit, on February 8, 40-weeks pregnant Jane Doe was in a police holding cell in the Bronx over an ongoing child custody case with her former partner. While in the cell, Jane Doe went into labor. Police officers took her to the Montefiore Medical Center. Inside the hospital, the officers handcuffed the woman’s wrists and shackled her ankles, despite the doctors warning officers that restraints [posed] serious risks for a woman in labor and were illegal in New York. In response to doctors’ warnings, the officers stated that that the department’s Patrol Guide, which supersedes state law, required them to restrain Jane Doe.
However, the lawsuit specifies that the department’s patrol guide requires restraining and shackling arrestees who require medical or psychiatric attention. Further, officers are allowed to remove the restraints at the doctor’s request, and after consulting a patrol supervisor. In Jane Doe’s case, the officers did not consult a sergeant after the woman and her doctors asked to remove the shackles.
After four hours of labor, officers removed some of her restraints. However, Jane Doe still delivered her baby with her right hand cuffed to the hospital bed. Jane Doe’s restraints were fully removed nine hour after giving birth, when a judge arraigned her in her hospital bed.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists strongly condemn shackling pregnant inmates. According to the ACLU, 6 percent of women in U.S. jails and prisons are pregnant.
Newswire Sources: The New York Times 12/6/18