New California Law Bans Shackling of Inmates During Labor

A California bill signed into law last week includes a ban on shackling women during labor, delivery and recovery. According to reports by Salon.com and the San Jose Mercury News, shackling women inmates during labor had been a routine practice in California prisons, despite no recorded instances of escape or assault by a prisoner giving birth. “The United Nations has established minimum rules for treatment of prisoners and California has not been following them,” said Assemblywoman Sally J. Lieber (D-San Jose), the bill’s author, adding, “It is inconceivable in this day and age that human beings would be shackled while giving birth,” according to Medical News Today.

Supported by California NOW, the ACLU, and The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, among others, the bill also ensures that inmates receive adequate prenatal and postnatal care, including access to vitamins and a basic dental cleaning. An average of 185 women give birth in California prisons each year.

Shackling pregnant women remains legal in at least 20 states.

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Medical News Today 10/10/05; Salon.com 5/23/05; San Jose Mercury News 7/29/05; Amnesty International March 1999

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