Prisons Often Shackle Pregnant Inmates in Labor - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 22 Old 03-08-2006, 12:54 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I just read this article from the New York Times, dated March 2, 2006:

Prisons Often Shackle Pregnant Inmates in Labor (New York Times registration required to view this article.)

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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.
Quote:
"Childbirth should be a sacred event," said Ms. Newell, a senior justice fellow at the Soros Foundation. "Just because they're prisoners doesn't mean they shouldn't get the usual care."
Ironically, in my opinion, many women laboring in North American hospitals today are virtually shackled, with epidurals, IVs, and the OB doctor's instistance that she lay down in bed for numerous vaginal exams and the actual "delivery."

Quote:
"This is the perfect example of rule-following at the expense of common sense," said William F. Schulz, the executive director of Amnesty International U.S.A. "It's almost as stupid as shackling someone in a coma."
Actually, it's not almost as stupid as shackling someone in a coma....people in comas don't need to move around the way laboring women do.

What a profoundly disturbing article--I had no idea that women inmates were literally chained to their beds. What a pathetic justice system. Every time I think I've heard the worst labor & delivery story.....
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#2 of 22 Old 03-08-2006, 02:53 PM
 
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Most are not allowed any pain relief. They are forced to labor in a bed and not allowed to move around and they usually do not get epidurals or anything like that at all.

It's pretty disgusting.
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#3 of 22 Old 03-08-2006, 03:14 PM
 
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Originally Posted by OnTheFence
Most are not allowed any pain relief. They are forced to labor in a bed and not allowed to move around and they usually do not get epidurals or anything like that at all.

It's pretty disgusting.
That's horrible. You'd think there would be some decency in allowing inmates to at least have brief reprieve from their punishment to have a good birth experience. It's important for the baby, too. The baby doesn't need to be punished for it's mother's crimes more than it already will be by having a mother in prison.

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#4 of 22 Old 03-08-2006, 04:27 PM
 
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My mom was strapped down in her delivery with me and she wasn't even a prisoner - just a laboring Mama that refused twilight and insisted on natural birth.

Keri

 Keri wife and Mama to  Cory 17,  Brendan 15,  Kerianne 8,  Avery 7,  Lilia 3
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#5 of 22 Old 03-08-2006, 04:39 PM
 
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I am going to be the only one that feels this way, but if they are guilty of a crime then I don't mind if they are shackled. If they are in there because they got busted with drugs and they didn't do any harm to anyone then no, I don't see why they would have to be shackled. Then again if they have been in for awhile there is the chance that they are now violent. I know I know, what can a woman in labor really do....well it depends on how far along she is. If it is just starting she could do plently. If she is in pain, she still could do some damage. It depends on the woman. Now, if they are innocent then yes I feel bad for them...yes, I believe not everyone in jail is guilty. I also feel that it is better for the baby if they do not get pain meds. but I think that has to be an individual choice. Unless they are a drug addict, then it might be better if they don't have any in case of a relapse....then again, they can get drugs while in prison so I guess it really doesn't matter.

My point is this.....they should not have broken the law and then they wouldn't have to go through this.
Also, the guards, nurses, dr.s, they need to be protected. A guard got killed last month by an inmate while the inmate was in the hospital! If you do the crime then you have to do the time. I do feel sorry for inmates because they have ruined their lives, but we all have a choice and they did not make the right one.

Okay, I also want to point out that she may not be violent but who is to say that the husband, boyfriend, or whoever doesn't get the bright idea of trying to get her out and in the process hurt or kill someone that works there or the guard??

Plus, I know that you all think that she has rights but I am sorry you should lose all your rights if you commit a crime. That is why we have laws. Anyway, what about the rights of the person or people the crime was commited against? Is that fair?

Just a thought.

Lisa, Traditional Roman Catholic, :::: wife to Brandon, mama to Taylor 17, Tristen 13, Trinity 9, Tyme 6, Wesley Thomas 4, Teresa 3, Gabriella 2, Isabella 1., and Marisela 2/2010.
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#6 of 22 Old 03-08-2006, 07:33 PM
 
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Originally Posted by SunflowerMama
I am going to be the only one that feels this way, but if they are guilty of a crime then I don't mind if they are shackled. If they are in there because they got busted with drugs and they didn't do any harm to anyone then no, I don't see why they would have to be shackled. Then again if they have been in for awhile there is the chance that they are now violent. I know I know, what can a woman in labor really do....well it depends on how far along she is. If it is just starting she could do plently. If she is in pain, she still could do some damage. It depends on the woman. Now, if they are innocent then yes I feel bad for them...yes, I believe not everyone in jail is guilty. I also feel that it is better for the baby if they do not get pain meds. but I think that has to be an individual choice. Unless they are a drug addict, then it might be better if they don't have any in case of a relapse....then again, they can get drugs while in prison so I guess it really doesn't matter.

My point is this.....they should not have broken the law and then they wouldn't have to go through this.
Also, the guards, nurses, dr.s, they need to be protected. A guard got killed last month by an inmate while the inmate was in the hospital! If you do the crime then you have to do the time. I do feel sorry for inmates because they have ruined their lives, but we all have a choice and they did not make the right one.

Okay, I also want to point out that she may not be violent but who is to say that the husband, boyfriend, or whoever doesn't get the bright idea of trying to get her out and in the process hurt or kill someone that works there or the guard??

Plus, I know that you all think that she has rights but I am sorry you should lose all your rights if you commit a crime. That is why we have laws. Anyway, what about the rights of the person or people the crime was commited against? Is that fair?

Just a thought.

That sort of reasoning could be used to justify all sorts of human rights violations. Next thing we know it will be ok to starve prisoners to death or beat them within an inch of their lives.
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#7 of 22 Old 03-08-2006, 08:53 PM
 
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But Sunflowermama, they're denied pain meds AND they're shackled, so they're not able to use other pain relief methods such as movement and changing positions easily. That's inhumane imo.

While not agreeing with it, I can understand your pov...but I still think you don't do this to a woman in labor. It's cruel.

You admit not all those in prison are guilty, so we have no way of knowing which are which. In that case, shouldn't they all be allowed to birth in a relatively peaceful way? I don't see what that would hurt...I can't truly imagine there is so much risk to the guards posed by a laboring woman. Well, maybe if you tried to shackle me :

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#8 of 22 Old 03-08-2006, 09:17 PM
 
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Sunflowermama we are not talking about murderers here, most women criminals have not committed heinous acts. They are women, often of color, who are in jails or prisons because frankly they couldn't afford better representation.

Being shackled in childbirth is inhumane. Frankly I find it inhumane for women in prison not to be allowed to have their children. There are some prisons that permit this for non-violent offenders but they are few and far between.

Just call me a flaming liberal, Kim
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#9 of 22 Old 03-08-2006, 09:36 PM
 
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OMG, this read leaves me utterly and deeply disturbed.
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#10 of 22 Old 03-09-2006, 12:16 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OnTheFence
Most are not allowed any pain relief. They are forced to labor in a bed and not allowed to move around and they usually do not get epidurals or anything like that at all.

It's pretty disgusting.
Where on earth is this happenning? I'm shocked. The women prisoners at my hospital always seem to have an epidural. Shit, everyone gets an epidural.
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#11 of 22 Old 03-09-2006, 12:19 AM
 
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Oh, and about the being shackled thing, well, it's just wrong. All they would seem to need is a guard standing by (which there is one anyway) and I don't see why they should need to be shackled during labor. Especially if it a situation like Kim pointed out, where they aren't allowed pain meds. Ouch.
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#12 of 22 Old 03-09-2006, 02:09 AM
 
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I do not understand at all why these women are not allowed pain meds such as an epidural. I guess I can understand not using something like Demerol on someone who has had drug problems, but an epidural is not something you can get high off. I am all for natural birth, but these women aren't allowed to have support people either to help them, limited comfort measures. Besides, if a woman chose an epidural then she would be no flight risk as she wouldn't be able to walk. Why not allow it? They certainly wouldn't expect a male prisoner to undergo surgery without meds.... I am pretty sure the meds aren't allowed for birth because it is men making the rules.

I feel a mix on the shackle thing. If I was a nurse or doc in a hospital and a violent, violent prisoner came in, I would wish her to be shackled to keep me safe. However, really the vast majority of women in corrections are there for things such as drugs, bad checks, welfare fraud, accidents that resulted in deaths, etc..... not murder. While I agree that prisoners gave up rights by comitting a crime, I don't think this means they should have to be shackled during something like labor. Really, can you imagine having your legs shackled TOGETHER while trying to labor and birth???? If a woman is in a minimum security place, I just don't see that she would be that big of a risk that she would need shackles. A guard or two should be enough if a laboring woman were to try to get away.... I mean she would have to stop every 3 minutes or so for a contraction, so I am sure they would catch up even if she was fast.

The whole argument of giving up rights gets scary. This is why for so long women who were raped in prison by guards were ignored... people felt that if they hadn't been criminals then they wouldn't have had it coming. Prisoners who are beaten or starved may meet with the same attitudes, and that scares me. My compassion for others shouldn't end just because they have made some bad mistakes.

Erika, mama to three beautiful kids (plus one gestating), and wife to one fantastic man.

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#13 of 22 Old 03-09-2006, 11:33 AM
 
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I saw this once. My mom used to work as al L&D nurse and I would often shadow her at county hospital. Most of the time the women delivered in the prison but if there was a high risk case she was sent to county and had at least one wrist handcuffed to the bed. The same was true of mental patients from the county mental hospital.

Once (I was not there) my mom took pity on a mental patient and asked the guard to unshakle her during the pushing stage so she could be more comfortable. That woman then lept out of bed and attempted to stab my mom with a pen. My mom put her hands up to defend herself and then grabbed the woman's wrists whie the guard came in. Not only was that woman re-shackled to the bed, but she was then sedated for the rest of her birth. My mom tore some muscles in her wrist from trying to stop the mental patient from stabbing her. My mom required counseling to get over it and have the courage to get back to work, and would not work with mental patients or prisoners after that unless both arms were shackled.

It sounds cruel to shackle a woman to her bed but these are not ordinary women. They are often dangerous and unstable. They are either mentally unstable or they have committed crimes and therefore given up many of the freedoms and rights we have as non-criminals. After what my mom told me, I don't think it's unreasonable. Sad, but not unreasonable.

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#14 of 22 Old 03-09-2006, 11:50 AM
 
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I think that they shackle the women and deny them medication to punish them for the pregnancy. I think that the prison system is trying to send a not-so-subtle message for birth control. They may work on the assumption that if a women suffers during labor then they will not be so eager to get pregnant again.
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#15 of 22 Old 03-09-2006, 12:01 PM
 
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The articles that I have read do not say that she was denied pain medication at the hospital, only that she was only given tylenol before she got there. Did I miss something?

The Most Important Person on earth is a mother...She has built something more magnificent than any cathedral-a dwelling for an immortal soul, the tiny perfection of her baby's bodyâ¦-Cardinal Mindszenty
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#16 of 22 Old 03-09-2006, 12:38 PM
 
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This article is, ugh I cant find the words, its ugly. There are a few things to say about it though. The prisions systems suck. I feel all criminals should be punished to the fullest extent of the law...that was until my own mother was arrested and sent to jail (not prision) on drug charges. Her life changed around compleately because of it and my views and opinions changed too. It is our responsibility as law abiding citizens to afford these people some help. Counsling, rehbilitation ect. The pregnant inmates deserve something more than a trip to the hospital and shackles. Couldnt a prision system set up a L&D room, hire some doulas and midwives specially trained to work with these women (even if its trained in physical restraint) and deliver their babies in a loving atmosphere. If we all believe in the power of birth, would a positive birth experience be a benifit to these women in their recovery from criminal life. Someone giving them their birth. These women are told what to do 24 hrs a day while locked up, the last thing they want is to be schackled and yelled at during labor, this could be the final straw that makes them snap and attack. But if someone lovingly coached them through labor, someone they have known befoer the birth, who has developed a realtionship with them, this could change things. They could in theory become aware of their situation and something could click, thus making them want to change themselves.
The system thakes this pissed off woman who, possibly has been abused all her life, mistreated sexually, basically has many issues, who just commited a crime for her own various reasons (possibly to support her other children), locks her up, controls her for 24 hrs a day, she is pregnant hormones raging, emotions outta wack because of the situation alone and because of the pregnancy. Then time come to deliver and she is locked up again, the one thing that could be hers and hers alone is taken from her, her birth. You take a pissed off woman, oppressed, throw her into labor, she is scaird, and getting angrier, shckle her, guard her, try to control her when she cant control her own body, and surround her with strangers during a very vulnerable and intimate time in her life for all these people to watch like she is some caged animal or medical experiment, what the hell are we doing here?
Instead we should have that woman in counsling frm day one, regular meetings with a doula and midwife, when her time comes, move her to a birthing room where the doula and midwives (who are familiar and safe), let her birth naturally with women there to help, let her bond with her baby after wards, let her recover in her own time (what else has she to do in prision) and then watch the healing happen. I am sounding idealistic and all but this is possible.
Women who have been sexually, emotionally, and/or physically abused have healed from a positive birth experience, its empowering and we all know that. Birth is amazing on soooo many levels and just because these women commit crimes, no matter how henious, they dont deserve to have their birth experiences taken from them, we can afford them some dignity.


--Riki
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#17 of 22 Old 03-09-2006, 04:09 PM
 
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Originally Posted by indie
That sort of reasoning could be used to justify all sorts of human rights violations. Next thing we know it will be ok to starve prisoners to death or beat them within an inch of their lives.
I agree Indie!A long time ago my mom knew a women who was pregnant in prison in Louisianna on drug charges(her boyfriend was selling pot and she was arrested when he was) she had her baby while she was in prison and she obly got to hold him for on hour or so till they took him away.She wanted to breastfeed himso bad,he went to stay with his grandmother and my mom and her friend Debi nursed him for awhile.When she got out of prison he was about a year old and she had only held him a couple of times.I dont remember anything about the labor and birthing but how they treated both of them after the birth,iam sure it wasn't good.
Kaitlin
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#18 of 22 Old 03-09-2006, 08:24 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 3daughters
I think that they shackle the women and deny them medication to punish them for the pregnancy. I think that the prison system is trying to send a not-so-subtle message for birth control. They may work on the assumption that if a women suffers during labor then they will not be so eager to get pregnant again.

7yo: "Mom,I know which man is on a quarter and which on is on a nickel. They both have ponytails, but one man has a collar and the other man is naked. The naked man was our first president."
 
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#19 of 22 Old 03-09-2006, 09:18 PM
 
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Is my theory that shocking?
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#20 of 22 Old 03-09-2006, 09:52 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 3daughters
Is my theory that shocking?
The idea of childbirth pain as punishment, yes it is quite shocking to me. Maybe it's just an emotional connection to something I once saw.

I remember one teen mother I saw give birth while my mom was there. My mom doesn't have the best bedside manners (or non bedside either, we are not on speaking terms anymore). The girl was about 15, petite, scared out of her wits, in severe pain, and had only her grandmother by her side. They did not speak English. The girl was screaming and screaming. The nurses kept asking the grandmother if they could give the girl something to relax her. She was flat on her back (actually had her bottom up off the ground at some points because of her panic) or curled in the fetal position the whole time and certainly not interested in the positive aspects of natural childbirth like most people here are.

The girl begged for drugs, the grandmother kept saying no she was not going to get them. The girl was a minor so the grandmother had to give permission for everything. The grandmother said in Spanish something like, "I want her to feel a lot of pain so she remembers this and does not get pregnant again so soon." (I understand some Spanish and I was shocked because of the distress the girl was in.) Then as the baby was being born the girl was screaming in panic again like a tortured animal. I have never heard anything like it.

They brought the teenage boyfriend in at that point. The grandmother basically dragged him in and he looked like he was going to be sick and faint right there. The girl didn't want to push but the baby just kinda came out on its own eventually and then as it was coming out she gave a big push to get it over with and she tore horribly. She did get some meds during the stitching process but it was not enough and she screamed every time a stitch was placed. My mom was trying to hold her down and keep her still and at one point my mom said to her in English, "You should have thought about all this before you decided to open your legs and get pregnant."

I could not believe the lack of compassion from all parties involved. Fifteen or not, that girl deserved the best experience she could have under the circumstances. At least she deserved some basic pain meds since she wanted them.

She did not bond with her baby right away. When they showed her the baby and tried to put it in her arms, she said "no no" and she turned her face away. Then she fell asleep, like she just turned off the way a newborn baby will when overstimulated. The boy refused to hold the baby too, and they took the baby off to the nursery. Maybe if that girl had been allowed a more peaceful birth under the circumstances, she might have bonded better with the baby.

Criminals might need to be restrained for the safety of the staff, but that doesn't mean they should be forced to endure the pain if they don't want it. I have past abuse issues myself and chose an epidural because of that. Who knows how many of these woman have been the victims of rape or other forms of abuse? Why not be as compasionate as possible to them and allow the birth of the baby to be maybe the only bright spot in their otherwise not so great lives? Maybe bonding with that baby during the birth, which is the only time they are allowed to see it, could be a motivating factor to get their lives straight.

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#21 of 22 Old 03-10-2006, 11:25 AM
 
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USAmma:
Don't you know the grandmother wasn't punishing this girl, but using "logical consequences"? :Puke

And what you saw was NOT an isolated incident, or even the exception. Go over and read some of the young mom threads over on FYT.

I think it is truly disgusting that any person can be treated the way the girl you saw, or the prisoners get treated. But prejudice is still alive and kicking.

He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.  ~Albert Einstein
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#22 of 22 Old 03-10-2006, 07:19 PM
 
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Plus, I know that you all think that she has rights but I am sorry you should lose all your rights if you commit a crime.
Actually, we don't just think she has rights, she does.

And let's remember, please, that there are many different kinds of crimes, and there are still unjust laws.

Further, the law prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. And denial of pain relief and shackling (in the absence of danger to the attendants) are certainly cruel.
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