Inmates at any stage of pregnancy, labor or delivery, no longer will be restrained in Nashville’s Davidson County, reports The Tennessean. Sheriff Daron Hall called the changes radical and dramatic. He said pregnant inmates would be restrained during trips to the hospital or court if there were credible information they might try to escape or if they presented a danger to themselves or others. The change comes after Juana Villegas, an illegal immigrant who was nine months pregnant, was arrested on careless driving charges and detained at the Davidson County jail. Villegas, from Mexico, said she was handcuffed and shackled during transport to the hospital and had one leg shackled to the bed for a portion of her labor.
Sheila Dauer of Amnesty International USA said the international standard is to restrain prisoners only if there’s a danger of escape. “That seems pretty unlikely, especially if this is an inmate in labor,” she said. “That’s generally a pretty painful and engrossing experience.” At least 38 states have policies allowing for some restraint at various stages of pregnancy or delivery. In a typical week, Davidson County has about 25 pregnant inmates in custody. The Tennessee Department of Corrections has 13 pregnant women in custody.