Pregnant inmates in Virginia would no longer be restrained by waist chains during their pregnancies or labor, except in extreme circumstances, under new regulations approved by the commonwealth's Board of Corrections and reported by the Washington Post. The rules will be subject to a 30-day period for public input and must be signed off on by the attorney general and governor before becoming law. The regulations put into writing what many jails in Virginia already do, said William Wilson, a local facilities supervisor with the Virginia Department of Corrections who handles jail complaints.
“I don't think this was a big problem,” Wilson said. “The jails have been doing, by and large, exactly what this spells out. The board members felt like it seemed like a good idea.” Under the proposed guidelines, inmates known to be pregnant “shall be handcuffed only in front” unless the inmate is a flight or security risk. The policy applies to transport during medical visits, labor, delivery, and postpartum recovery. Several stakeholders met in recent months to craft the language approved by the corrections board. Activists cheered the changes as necessary for the safety of pregnant inmates and said the measures will end uncertainty in the state's jails and prisons on this issue. Virginia would become only the 18th state to codify restricting the use of restraints on pregnant women, says the American Civil Liberties Union.
For more on shackling pregnant inmates in Virginia, see this earlier story in The Crime Report: http://www.thecrimereport.org/news/inside-criminal-justice/2011-08-chained-and-pregnant