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Difficult Births: Laboring And Delivering In Shackles
NPR ^ | 7/16/10 | Andrea Hsu

Posted on 07/19/2010 7:57:16 AM PDT by Borges

It's a practice so hidden, many don't realize it exists: the shackling of incarcerated women during childbirth. Across the U.S., there are stories of women going from jails or prisons to hospitals, where they labor and sometimes even deliver while restrained with handcuffs, leg shackles or both. In recent years, a growing number of states have moved to ban the practice. Ten states now have anti-shackling legislation: California, Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, New York, Texas, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia — and as of two weeks ago, Pennsylvania. There have also been lawsuits in a number of states. On Thursday, a jury in rural Arkansas found that a guard had violated the constitutional rights of a woman by shackling her while she was in labor, though they awarded her just $1. In May, a shackling case was settled in Washington state for $125,000. And in Illinois, there's a class action lawsuit against Cook County and its sheriff, Tom Dart. Legs Chained, Handcuffed To The Bed Chicago attorneys Tom Morrissey and Ken Flaxman believe there could be as many as 100 to 150 women included in the class action suit, with cases dating back to late 2006. They're seeking an end to the shackling of inmates during childbirth, and compensation for their clients, including Jennifer Farrar, 25.

In November 2008, Farrar was arrested for cashing fake payroll checks. She was charged with forgery, and booked into the Cook County Jail, a sprawling complex on the southwest side of Chicago, and one of the largest jails in the country. She was almost seven months pregnant at the time. One day the following January, Farrar went to court for a hearing, and there the pains began. An ambulance was called. Farrar says officers cuffed her hands and chained her legs together. Another chain was placed around her belly, connecting her hands to her feet. When she got to the hospital, she says, the belly chain was removed, but her legs were still chained, and one hand was cuffed to the bed. "The doctor and the nurse," Farrar says, "they were telling the officer, is this necessary, you know? Where is she going to go? She's in labor you know." She says she remained that way for eight or nine hours, until it came time to push. At that point, the correctional officer unlocked the leg restraints, but left one arm cuffed to the bed. An hour later, Jennifer Farrar delivered her baby girl. "Here I am, a mother giving birth," Farrar says. "It should be a happy time in my life. I know that I did something wrong, and you have to take the responsibility for what you do. But it wasn't like I was a murderer." "Tantamount To Torture" Another plaintiff, Cora Fletcher, was 17 years old in 2006 when she was charged with retail theft. A year later, she missed a court date, and a warrant was issued for her arrest. A year after that, officers showed up at her house, and took her in when she was eight months pregnant.

A couple weeks later, in a prenatal checkup at the jail, it was discovered that Fletcher's baby had no heartbeat. She was taken to the county hospital, where her arms and her legs were shackled to opposite sides of the bed. Doctors tried to induce her, but it wasn't until three days later that she went into labor. Even then, Fletcher says, she was left with one hand and one leg shackled to the bed. "It was difficult to try to have a baby like that," Fletcher says. "Especially by this being my first baby. It was so painful ... and you can't move around like how you want to." After delivering her stillborn child, Fletcher was allowed to hold the baby for 20 minutes. Gail Smith, executive director of the group Chicago Legal Advocacy for Incarcerated Mothers, has worked in Illinois jails and prisons for 25 years and says shackling female inmates during labor is tantamount to torture. "I think that there is a general attitude on the part of some people that they don't deserve to be treated with full human rights," Smith says. "And I find that appalling." Growth In Female Inmates The U.S. female prison population has grown eightfold since 1977, according to the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics. Approximately two-thirds are in for nonviolent offenses. And yet, says Malika Saada Saar of the Rebecca Project for Human Rights, departments of corrections have not put enough thought into how treatment for women should be different from that for men. "If a man behind bars has a broken arm, or needs to have his appendix taken out, that individual is put into restraints, into shackles during medical transport," Saada Saar says. "So essentially what is done for those men has been extended to women. And part of what's different is that we have babies." Labor is the crux of the issue, says Steve Patterson, spokesman for the Cook County Sheriff's Office. "A correctional officer working on a tier on the midnight shift, or any other shift, is not trained to know when a woman is in labor or not," Patterson says.

Therefore, he says, correctional officers rely on medical personnel, either at the jail or at an outside hospital, to make the determination. Only when labor has been determined are all restraints removed. Patterson says that policy is consistent with state law and is necessary in a public hospital. "We have to bring inmates to the same area that the general public comes to," Patterson says. "So, if you're laying in hospital bed, and in the next hospital bed is a woman who's in on a double murder charge, because she's pregnant she shouldn't be handcuffed to the side of the bed — I think if you're the person laying in bed next to her you might disagree." Patterson says in 1998, a pregnant inmate did escape during a medical visit. She was caught just off the hospital grounds. He knows of no escape attempts by pregnant inmates since 1999. Leg Irons, Belly Chains And Handcuffs No one is sure just how many incarcerated women give birth each year; Saada Saar estimates it to be about 1,300. Nor does anyone know how widespread shackling is. Ginette Ferszt, associate professor and psychiatric clinical nurse specialist from the University of Rhode Island College of Nursing, recently conducted a survey of state prisons to learn more about what practices are in place for pregnant inmates. She and a physician at the Rhode Island Women's State Correctional Facility sent out questionnaires to wardens in all 50 states. The wardens were promised anonymity, and 19 replied. The survey asked about many issues related to pregnancy, including prenatal care, nutritional needs and shackling. Ferszt says she was quite surprised to find that two facilities continue to use leg irons, belly chains and handcuffs during transport to prenatal visits. She also learned that among the 19 prisons that responded, six of them cuff either a woman's hands or her ankle when labor begins. During the delivery of the baby, one prison says that handcuffs stay on, and four reported back that an ankle shackle remains on. While disturbed by the findings, Ferszt did find hope in conversations with two wardens, when she realized their shackling policies weren't something they'd thought much about. "For many rules and policies whether for women or men, they've existed for them a long time," Ferszt says. "It hadn't really occurred to these two wardens that this could potentially be a health problem, a health issue." She says the two wardens have since said they'll sit down and make changes.


TOPICS: Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: defundpbsnpr; defundtheleft; prison; publicradio

1 posted on 07/19/2010 7:57:17 AM PDT by Borges
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To: Borges

Sorry..but it’s hard to work up any sympathy for them. It’s their own fault.


2 posted on 07/19/2010 8:00:34 AM PDT by penelopesire ("Did you plug the hole yet daddy?")
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To: Borges

“It should be a happy time in my life.”

Birthdays should be happy to. Should prisoners get “a day off to celebrate”? How about “a day out” to attend the graduation of your children or the funerals for your parents?

Leave it to PBS-NPR to make this a “cause”.


3 posted on 07/19/2010 8:02:28 AM PDT by a fool in paradise (I wish our president loved the US military as much as he loves Paul McCartney.)
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To: Borges

Sammy Davis Jr. said it best; “ Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.”


4 posted on 07/19/2010 8:06:06 AM PDT by steve8714 (Our long national nightmare is over. We can resume our proper disdain for soccer.)
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To: a fool in paradise

Lol. “Leave it to PBS-NPR to make this a “cause”.”

Yes, and all the while ignore abortion.


5 posted on 07/19/2010 8:06:08 AM PDT by Boxsford
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To: penelopesire

Maybe the shackles are on the wrong body parts.


6 posted on 07/19/2010 8:06:11 AM PDT by Past Your Eyes (Some people are too stupid to be ashamed.)
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To: Borges

I come down on the side of letting the mother deliver the baby without the handcuffs or leg restraints.


7 posted on 07/19/2010 8:09:17 AM PDT by Enterprise (As a disaster unfolds, a putz putts.)
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To: Borges

I am nearly the last person to have sympathy for a criminal, but when a woman is in labor, the last thought on her mind is, “I’m going to take the chance and run for it right now.” How difficult is it to have a guard or two available (which I would guess are there any way). It’s not like she is going to be in the physical shape to take them down if she isn’t shackled.


8 posted on 07/19/2010 8:11:33 AM PDT by HungarianGypsy
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To: Enterprise

So do I. Having been in labor 4 times, trust me, they aren’t going anywhere.

If guys gave birth, this practice would be abolished in a heart beat. This has nothing to do with doing the crime. this is birth. It doesn’t matter if you’re a prisoner or not. This is not like watching t.v. or eating dinner. This is a physical event. Guard the rooms if you have to. Have the doors locked, something, but a woman should be allowed to give birth without hinderances.


9 posted on 07/19/2010 8:19:16 AM PDT by humble and shy (Taking our country back, one corrupt politician at a time)
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To: HungarianGypsy

I agree. Also, what if an emergency happens and they can’t find the key?


10 posted on 07/19/2010 8:26:00 AM PDT by raybbr (Someone who invades another country is NOT an immigrant - illegal or otherwise.)
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To: Borges

I’ve given birth three times...never any shackles invovled. Wonder why. Oh yeah, I didn’t break the law!

Geeze, yeah it sounds pretty unpleasant, but they made the choice.


11 posted on 07/19/2010 8:28:21 AM PDT by mockingbyrd (Remember in November.)
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To: Borges

I’d never chain a dog up who was having puppies, so unless the woman is Hannibalina Lector, she shouldn’t be chained during child birth either

However, that is about all of the sympathy I can muster for criminals of either gender.


12 posted on 07/19/2010 8:28:53 AM PDT by Dr.Zoidberg (Warning: Sarcasm/humor is always engaged. Failure to recognize this may lead to misunderstandings.)
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To: Borges

Sympathy for the devil. But none for his victims.


13 posted on 07/19/2010 8:32:20 AM PDT by IronJack (=)
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To: humble and shy

Also been in labor four times, and I agree 100%. I have no other sympathy for them, but they aren’t going anywhere. I’ve been in some unimaginable pain in labor, and I can’t imagine being shackled to a bed. It’s inhumane. Yes, of course, guard them, still.


14 posted on 07/19/2010 8:58:15 AM PDT by conservative cat
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To: Borges
Take the kid by C-section, without anaesthetic. That way the shackles won't be a problem.
15 posted on 07/19/2010 9:10:38 AM PDT by Nervous Tick (Eat more spinach! Make Green Jobs for America!)
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To: Borges

The leg shackles are a bit ridiculous but I think they should still be handcuffed to the bed. I’ve seen some patients tolerate labor & delivery surprisingly well. Ya never know if you’re dealing w a tough old broad who’ll cut & run.

I spent 6 years as a critical care nurse. Incarcerated patients were always shackled, even the ones who were sedated, in a coma, and on a ventilator. Better safe than sorry. Even in the OR, they’re shackled while under anesthesia. I get so sick of these liberal feminists seeking special treatment for women. Why don’t they take up a real women’s rights cause, like forced abortions in China, rape in African nations, oppression by the Taliban, etc.


16 posted on 07/19/2010 9:11:55 AM PDT by surroundedbyblue
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To: Nervous Tick
Take the kid by C-section, without anaesthetic. That way the shackles won't be a problem.

Written by a man.

17 posted on 07/19/2010 9:12:07 AM PDT by ladyjane
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To: ladyjane

>> Written by a man.

Yep, and a mean one who doesn’t have much sympathy for criminals.


18 posted on 07/19/2010 9:13:21 AM PDT by Nervous Tick (Eat more spinach! Make Green Jobs for America!)
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To: conservative cat
I'll second that.

Been in labor several times. The pain was excruciating. Worse than getting busted up when a driver blew a red light and totaled my car (walked away from that), or blowing out my knee at school, or having 6 teeth yanked in one sitting to prepare for braces.

I have a high pain threshold. Nothing - I repeat - nothing in my bangs and scrapes compared to this.

The focus should be on preserving the life of the child. Things can and do go horribly wrong during delivery; I know this from personal experience. Who needs to be juggling keys and fiddling with locks when seconds can count the most?

> After the baby comes, give them a few minutes to hold that precious child (hopefully, a few moments to bond, a reason to get their lives back on the right track) and then put the cuffs back on.

19 posted on 07/19/2010 9:18:43 AM PDT by TheWriterTX (-)
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To: conservative cat
I'll second that.

Been in labor several times. The pain was excruciating. Worse than getting busted up when a driver blew a red light and totaled my car (walked away from that), or blowing out my knee at school, or having 6 teeth yanked in one sitting to prepare for braces.

I have a high pain threshold. Nothing - I repeat - nothing in my bangs and scrapes compared to this.

The focus should be on preserving the life of the child. Things can and do go horribly wrong during delivery; I know this from personal experience. Who needs to be juggling keys and fiddling with locks when seconds can count the most?

> After the baby comes, give them a few minutes to hold that precious child (hopefully, a few moments to bond, a reason to get their lives back on the right track) and then put the cuffs back on.

20 posted on 07/19/2010 9:18:52 AM PDT by TheWriterTX (-)
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To: Nervous Tick
I've been through two C-Sections; one an emergency C due to a 30% abruption.

If you ever had one, or witnessed someone you care about going through one, you sure as heck wouldn't speak be so cavalier in your approach.

21 posted on 07/19/2010 9:33:56 AM PDT by TheWriterTX (-)
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To: TheWriterTX

You bill yourself as a writer. Do you know the meaning of the phrase “facetious comment”?

Maybe you should look it up (and lighten up).


22 posted on 07/19/2010 9:36:06 AM PDT by Nervous Tick (Eat more spinach! Make Green Jobs for America!)
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To: Borges

I’m sorry but shouldn’t they have thought about this before committing a crime?


23 posted on 07/19/2010 9:37:07 AM PDT by chris_bdba
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To: TheWriterTX

>> you sure as heck wouldn’t speak be so cavalier

Say, as a bigshot self important writer, could you please explain what the heck you mean by that mangled writing?


24 posted on 07/19/2010 9:37:23 AM PDT by Nervous Tick (Eat more spinach! Make Green Jobs for America!)
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To: HungarianGypsy

It costs a lot more money to have armed guards posted and it then leaves the medical staff at risk if the inmate is violent. I have a close friend who works in L&D at the local hospital and has had county inmates give birth.You would be surprised at what some of them try.


25 posted on 07/19/2010 9:39:16 AM PDT by chris_bdba
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