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Thread: Ex-convict challenges legality of restraining prisoners in labor.

  1. #1
    Friend of Gossip Rocks! buttmunch's Avatar
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    Oct 2005

    Default Ex-convict challenges legality of restraining prisoners in labor.

    By Adam Liptak The New York Times
    SUNDAY, MARCH 5, 2006
    Shawanna Nelson, a prisoner at the McPherson Unit in Newport, Arkansas, had been in labor for more than 12 hours when she arrived at the Newport Hospital on Sept. 20, 2003. Nelson, whose legs were shackled together and who had been given nothing stronger than an over-the-counter painkiller all day, begged, according to court papers, to have the shackles removed.

    Though her doctor and two nurses joined in the request, her lawsuit says, the guard in charge of Nelson refused.

    "She was shackled all through labor," said Nelson's lawyer, Cathleen Compton. "The doctor who was delivering the baby made them remove the shackles for the actual delivery at the very end."

    Despite sporadic complaints and occasional lawsuits, the practice of shackling prisoners in labor continues to be relatively common, state legislators and a human rights group said.

    Only two states, California and Illinois, have laws forbidding the practice. The New York Legislature is considering a similar bill.

    Nelson's suit, which seeks to ban the use of restraints on Arkansas prisoners during labor and delivery, is to be tried in Little Rock, Arkansas this spring.

    The California law, which came into force in January, was prompted by widespread problems, said Sally Lieber, a Democratic assemblywoman. "We found this was going on in some institutions in California and all over the United States," she said. "It presents risks not only for the inmate giving birth, but also for the infant."

    Corrections officials say they must strike a balance between security and the well-being of the mother and child.

    "Though these are pregnant women," said Dina Tyler, a spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Corrections, "they are still convicted felons, and sometimes violent in nature.

    Dee Ann Newell, who has taught classes in prenatal care and parenting for female prisoners in Arkansas for 15 years, said she found the practice of shackling women in labor appalling.

    "If you have ever seen a woman have a baby, you know we squirm," she said. "We move around."

    Twenty-three state corrections departments, along with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, have policies that expressly allow the use of restraints during labor, according to a report issued by Amnesty International U.S.A. on Wednesday.

    Many states justify the use of restraints because the prisoners remain escape risks, though there have apparently been no instances of escape attempts by women in labor.

    "You can't convince me that it's ever really happened," Newell said. "You certainly wouldn't get far."

    About 5 percent of female prisoners arrive pregnant, according to a 1999 Justice Department report.

    Illinois enacted the first law forbidding the use of some restraints during labor in 2000.

    Before that, said Gail Smith, the executive director of Chicago Legal Advocacy for Incarcerated Mothers, the standard practice was to chain the prisoner to a hospital bed. "What was common," Smith said, "was one wrist and one ankle."

    The California law prohibits shackling prisoners by the wrists or ankles during labor, delivery and recovery. Until recently, prisoners from the Valley State Prison in Chowchilla, California, were routinely shackled to their beds after giving birth at the nearby Madera Community Hospital.

    "These women are mostly in for minor crimes and don't pose a flight risk," said Lieber, who had met with 120 pregnant women at the prison.

    Washington state has also forbidden the use of shackles during labor. Pamela Simpson, a California nurse, described in an e-mail message to Lieber the practice in Washington state before the policy was changed.

    "Here this young woman was in active labor," Simpson wrote, "handcuffed to the armed guard, wearing shackles, in her orange outfit that was dripping wet with amniotic fluid."

    She added that the prisoner was 15.

    Arkansas has resisted an outright ban on restraints, though Nelson's case may change that.

    Nelson was serving time for identity fraud and writing bad checks when she gave birth at age 30. She weighed a little more than 100 pounds, or 45 kilograms, and her baby, it turned out, weighed 9 ½ pounds, or about 4.3 kilograms.

    The experience of giving birth without anesthesia while largely immobilized has left her with lasting back pain and damage to her sciatic nerve, according to her lawsuit against prison officials and a private company, Correctional Medical Services.

    Nelson, now known as Shawanna Lumsey, and lawyers for the defendants did not respond to requests for comment. In court papers, the defendants denied they had caused Nelson any harm.

    Partly as a consequence of Nelson's suit, Arkansas has started using softer and more flexible nylon restraints for prisoners deemed to be security risks. They are removed during the actual delivery, said Tyler, the department spokeswoman.

    Newell considers that slight progress for the approximately 50 women in Arkansas prisons and jails who give birth each year.

    "Childbirth should be a sacred event," said Newell, a senior justice fellow at the Soros Foundation. "Just because they're prisoners doesn't mean they shouldn't get the usual care."
    We've had this discussion before but since I am absolutely appalled by the practice, I thought I'd post the latest. I've had two kids and both times it was very long and difficult labor. I cannot imagine how much more hellish it might have been had I been basically imobilized. And before anyone says 'though shit, if you can't do the time, don't do the crime' I will say that just because you committed a crime doesn't mean you have lost all rights to proper treatment. I agree with the last statement made in the article.
    'Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.' Ben Franklin

    "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."
    --Sinclair Lewis

  2. #2
    Gold Member misskris's Avatar
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    Oct 2005
    Toronto, Canada

    Default Re: Ex-convict challenges legality of restraining prisoners in labor.

    that's quite brutal. you'd think that if they REALLY had to restrain them that one wrist would be enough bc then they'd have some mobility. was the prisonner that experienced sciatic nerve damage offered an epidural?

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