Giving Birth in Chains

by Will Grigg
Feb. 24, 2014

 The Massachusetts Legislature is considering a measure that would forbid prison staff to handcuff pregnant inmates during childbirth. The bill has taken roughly a decade to work its way through the system. If it passes, Massachusetts will become the 19th state to ban this practice. 

What this means, obviously, is that there are more than thirty states in which it is considered permissible to handcuff and shackle a female inmate during and immediately after she gives birth. Among them in Oklahoma, which has exceptionally severe drug laws, a notoriously rigid judiciary, and the largest female inmate population, per capita, of any political entity in the world.

 Three years ago, Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona's Maricopa County was sued by a woman who was shackled during a Caesarian section and then forced to walk out of the hospital two days later, still bleeding, with her hands and feet in shackles. Similar treatment was inflicted on at least two women in Tennessee. 

All of this has happened in the U.S. without significant public outcry. By way of contrast, the Egyptian public was convulsed with outrage over the news that a woman arrested during a protest in Cairo was forced to give birth in chains. 













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