California Governor vetoes bill limiting use of restraints on pregnant incarcerated women

California Governor Brown vetoed a bill yesterday that would have limited the use of restraints on pregnant incarcerated women during transport. A ban on using restraints during labor already exists. The bill passed the legislature with overwhelming support, and likely received a veto because the California State Sheriff’s Association decided to push heavily against the bill.

From the Governor’s veto message:

At first blush, I was inclined to sign this bill because it certainly seems inapprpriate to shackle a pregnant inmate unless absolutely necessary. Hovwever, the language of this measure goes too far, prhohibiting no only hsackling, but also the use of handcuffs or restraints of any kind except under ill-defined circumstances.

Let’s be clear. Inmates, whether pregnant or not, need to be transported in a manner that is safe for them and others. The restrictive criteria set forth in this bill go beyond what is necessary to protect the health and dignity or pregnant inmates and will only serve to sow confusion and invite lawsuits.

This is really disappointing news, and further proof that the health and safety of pregnant incarcerated women is not a priority. The fact that he attempted to say that the use of handcuffs or restraints could actually be needed to “be transported in a manner that is safe for them” is appalling.

In my article for Colorlines last week, I talked to Marianne Bullock, a prison doula and co-founder of the Prison Birth Project. She had this to say about the danger of restraints during transport:

Marianne Bullock, cofounder of the Massachusetts-based Prison Birth Project, offers an anecdote from across the country illustrating why shackling during transport is an acute problem. As a doula who has been working within a Springfield prison for the last four years, Bullock and the other members of the Prison Birth Project see exactly how incarcerated pregnant women are treated. Even though their facility doesn’t shackle women during childbirth, shackles are still used during transport, especially postpartum. Bullock recounts one woman that she supported during labor who ended up with a full episiotomy (an incision to widen the vaginal opening) to deal with her baby’s shoulder dystocia.

“Twenty-four hours later she was shackled foot-to-foot and walked out of the hospital,” she remembered. “It’s so dangerous to have a woman walking shackled, with who knows how many stitches.”

Congrats to everyone in California for such an impressive push getting this bill through, and here is to hoping that it gets through next time.


One thought on “California Governor vetoes bill limiting use of restraints on pregnant incarcerated women

  1. Juliana Schwartz October 29, 2011 / 8:52 am

    This is so sickening. I feel nauseous imagining a woman having to give birth in shackles. I mean, think about it, when you have contractions wracking your body, how harmful can you be? How many women have lashed out a doctors in order to escape the prison while a baby is coming out between their legs?

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