Do We Really Need to Chain Inmates Giving Birth?

Maybe the Cook County settlement will change things: Sadhbh Walshe
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 7, 2012 11:55 AM CDT
Do We Really Need to Chain Inmates Giving Birth?
Female prisoners in the US shouldn't have to be shackled during birth, writes Sadhbh Walshe.   (Shutterstock)

Chicago's Cook County Jail last month paid $4.1 million to settle a lawsuit by female inmates who say they were shackled when giving birth. Really, America? writes Sadhbh Walshe in the Guardian. "The practices of making pregnant women wear belly chains and of shackling their hands and feet before, after, and sometimes during labor, are just another way in which the United States distinguishes itself—or fails to distinguish itself, perhaps—as anything but a bastion of liberty and justice and a champion of women's rights."

No other nation in the "civilized world" finds this "barbaric" practice to be necessary, she writes. Most female inmates aren't dangerous felons but nonviolent offenders. And do wardens truly expect a woman to make a great escape while in labor? Only 16 states have laws on the books forbidding the practice, but that might change thanks to Cook County's settlement. "It's a shame that it will, apparently, require endless lawsuits and relentless campaigning to put an end to a practice that any reasonable person should find abhorrent," writes Walshe. "But if that's what it takes, so be it." Click for Walshe's full column. (More pregnancy stories.)

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