Allen, Vitale Bill Advances; Prohibits Restraint of Inmates During Childbirth

Press Release 1/15/15

19th DISTRICT – Bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senators Diane Allen and Joseph Vitale prohibiting correctional facilities from placing restraints on inmates during or immediately after childbirth was advanced today by the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee.

“Sadly, there have been instances at facilities across the country where female prisoners were handcuffed or physically restrained in other ways while in labor and right after delivery,” said Allen (R-Burlington). “Shackling a woman during childbirth creates serious medical risks and is an affront to basic human dignities. This legislation will make sure that type of barbaric treatment doesn’t take place 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.

“You would be hard-pressed to find an obstetrician who thinks that tying a woman down, handcuffing her to a bed or restraining her while giving birth is good for the mother or good for the child,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex). “Yet, incarcerated women can be subjected to this inhuman act prior to, during and in the aftermaths of labor.  Restraining a woman in labor can not only restrict her ability to move positions to manage the pain or as part of the birthing process but can limit the ability of the doctor to move the woman’s position for the safety of the child.  It is an unsafe practice that must be stopped.”

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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