Despite sporadic complaints and occasional lawsuits, the practice of shackling female prisoners who are 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, and the New York Legislature is considering a similar bill, reports the New York Times.
The California law, which came into force in January, was prompted by widespread problems, said Sally J. Lieber, a Democratic assemblywoman. “We found this was going on in some institutions in California and all over the United States,” Ms. Lieber said. “It presents risks not only for the inmate giving birth, but also for the infant.” Corrections officials say they must strike a balance between security and the well-being of the pregnant woman and her child. “Though these are pregnant women,” said Dina Tyler, a spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Corrections, “they are still convicted felons, and sometimes violent in nature. There have been instances when we’ve had a female inmate try to hurt hospital staff during delivery.”