NJ Senate Passes Bill Sponsored By Diane Allen Prohibiting Restraint of Inmates During Childbirth

Saturday, May 16th, 2015

The Senate has passed bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senators Diane Allen and Joseph Vitale prohibiting correctional facilities from placing restraints on inmates during or immediately after childbirth.

“It’s outrageous that anyone would think it necessary or appropriate to handcuff or aggressively restrain a female inmate during labor or right after delivery,” said Allen (R-Burlington). “Sadly, there have been instances of this type of inhuman and excessive force being used at some correctional facilities across the country. This legislation makes it clear that this barbaric and medically unsafe practice won’t be permitted in New Jersey.”

According to a July 2014 New York Times article, an estimated 2,000 women give birth to babies each year while incarcerated, including in 2011 a Nevada woman who suffered severe injuries when corrections staff shackled her ankles together while she was in labor and then again minutes after her child was delivered through an emergency cesarean section. Over the past 15 years 21 states have enacted legislation prohibiting the restraint of inmates during labor.

“That any woman in active child labor can be subjected to being physically restrained immediately prior to, during or in the moments following the delivery of her child is a complete disregard for the sanctity of human life,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex). “Not only does it restrict a woman’s ability to necessarily move during the natural birthing process to facilitate delivery or better manage her pain, but it also inhibits doctors from performing their duties of safely delivering babies. We can not allow this inhuman treatment of incarcerated women, and at such a vulnerable time for mother and child, to happen in our state.”

The legislation, S-221, prohibits correctional staff and medical providers from restraining an inmate during or immediately after labor or during pregnancy related medical distress. The legislation does allow for the least restrictive restraint necessary to be used in circumstances where the inmate is determined to be a significant flight risk or during other extraordinary security or medical circumstances that pose a safety risk to staff, the inmate or the public.

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