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Legislation would set rules for shackling of incarcerated pregnant women
By floridaindependent.com - Ashley Lopez
Published: 11/10/2011

Advocates for legislation that would create humane rules for the shackling of incarcerated pregnant women say the law would fill a present gap in jail policies in Florida, despite claims by the Florida Department of Corrections that the measure is unnecessary.

State Rep. Betty Reed, D-Tampa, and Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, have introduced a bill that creates rules in county and city jails to protect the health of pregnant women who are incarcerated.

Last session, a similar bill almost made it to a final vote, but it eventually died. While the bill found wide support, Florida’s Department of Corrections opposed the measure.

A response (.pdf) from the department, posted on the website of the Association of State Correctional Administrators, claims that a report that gave the state of Florida an “F” for its shackling policies was “misleading.”

Officials at the state agency said they have policies prohibiting the restraints of women who are in labor, as well as guidelines for pregnant women.

According to a statement from Florida Department of Correction to The Florida Independent:

The Florida Department of Corrections does not shackle female inmates in any stage of labor. Florida refers each pregnant inmate to an OB/GYN physician to provide prenatal care and follow them through their pregnancy. Inmates receive prenatal counseling, vitamins and exams. They also receive an extra nutritional meal each day. Any time a woman is pregnant and sent to prison it is a tragedy for mother and child. Florida does not have prison nurseries, so mothers must make a decision about where to place their child well prior to birth. Most place children with family members. At all stages of her incarceration medical personnel are consulted. A pregnant women who is being transported may be restrained, depending on her custody level and behavior. She may be restrained if she is considered a security risk by the Officer in Charge. However, if the inmate is already in labor during transport, she will not be restrained. In the hospital after delivery is complete, inmates are tethered to their recovery beds by one ankle.(This is provide security for the hospital and to prevent escapes). Additionally, there is a correctional officer in the room with them at all times, to be sure they have access to the bathroom or any other needs they may have. Infants do not return to prison with their mothers. Most pregnant inmates reside at Lowell CI, there are 20 to 25 there on average. Late term pregnant inmates (over 35 weeks) are housed at Broward CI.

The 2010 report in question was compiled by the Rebecca Project for Human Rights. It analyzed whether a state’s policies harm pregnant women who are incarcerated.

The report was also “intended to help advocates assess their own state’s policies affecting these significant phases of pregnancy, labor and delivery, and parenting.” It gave a failing grade to any state that failed to “comprehensively limit, or limit at all, the use of restraints on pregnant women during transportation, labor and delivery and postpartum recuperation.” Thirty-six states, including Florida, received failing grades.

ACLU of Florida Policy and Advocacy Counsel Julie Ebenstein says that although the Department of Corrections has shackling policies for pregnant women in place, Florida jails do not.

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