After last year’s unsuccessful struggle for human rights in Maryland, Delegate Mary Washington is back again this year to stop the practice of shackling pregnant women while incarcerated in local jails and state prisons. To read the bill text go here: House Bill 27 – 2014 Session – 1st Reading.
The filing of this year’s bill marks the start of our campaign to change how we do business in our jails and prisons. Last year over one hundred organizations and individuals endorsed the statement of opposition in order to tell state law makers that we don’t want the safety of women and their pregnancies jeopardized. To include your opposition go to www.stopshacklingmd.org and complete the form, THEN tell a friend!
The bill is aptly named the “Healthy Births for Incarcerated Women Act” and is summarized as prohibiting the use of a physical restraint on an inmate while the inmate is in labor or during delivery; requiring the medical professional responsible for the care of a certain inmate to determine when the inmate’s health allows the inmate to be returned to a correctional facility after giving birth; prohibiting, with certain exceptions, a physical restraint from being used on a certain inmate; requiring a correctional facility todocument certain use of a physical restraint; requiring the managing official of a local correctional facility to take certain actions when a certain representation concerning an inmate is made; requiring the Department of Juvenile Services to adopt certain regulations; requiring the Secretary of Public Safety and Correctional Services and the managing official of each local correctional facility to provide a certain report to the Governor and the General Assembly on or before a certain date; declaring the findings of the General Assembly, defining certain terms; generally relating to pregnant inmates and the use of physical restraints.
In a Capital News Service online article by Lucy Westcott sweeping problems in the US prison system were illuminated relating to the manner in which we incarcerate women, provide few services, and sometimes further their trauma. National context was provided by Mare Mauer from the Sentencing Project and Amy Fettig from the American Civil Liberties Union. The article noted the impact of gender violence, poverty and drug policy on incarceration rates and the prison system’s ability to provide adequate services to women who need them. Maryland was featured heavily in the piece with women who had survived sexual assault and shackling during childbirth in the state system coming forward to tell their stories. Regarding shackling, A Maryland Department of Public Safety representative pointed out that, “It’s the local jails in Maryland that have problems with shackling” and that there were varying policies from jail to jail. Local advocate from Power Inside offered that shackling should happen to no one, ever, and that greater transparency was needed to understand the extent of the use of shackling. Read the article HERE
Rachel Roth has worked nationwide to improve treatment and conditions of incarcerated pregnant women. Now her home state of Massachusetts is moving forward to limit shackling. If you live Massachusetts it is time to mobilize! Here is Rachel’s blog post in Moms Rising that will bring you up to speed and tell you how to get involved. Read HERE.