For Immediate Release - May 15, 2014

GOVERNOR PATRICK SIGNS ANTI-SHACKLING LEGISLATION

Anti-Shackling, Safe Pregnancy Bill Signing

Governor Patrick signs S. 2063 An Act to Prevent Shackling and Promote Safe Pregnancies for Female Inmates in the State House. (Photo: Jun Tsuboike / Governor's Office)

BOSTON – Thursday, May 15, 2014 – Governor Deval Patrick today signed S. 2063, “An Act to Prevent Shackling and Promote Safe Pregnancies for Female Inmates.” The bill, sponsored by Senator Karen Spilka and Representative Kay Khan, strictly limits the use of restraints, including handcuffs and leg irons, on pregnant inmates and establishes a minimum level of care that must be afforded to pregnant inmates in county correctional facilities.

“Unless it can be said with certainty that the inmate poses a serious and immediate physical danger to herself or her fellow inmates, she should not be tied down limb-by-limb in the 21st century here in Massachusetts,” said Governor Patrick. “I am proud to sign this legislation to formalize emergency regulations that ended the use of restrains on pregnant inmates in labor in all Department of Corrections facilities.”

The use of restraints has, until now, been governed by emergency regulations the Department of Correction (DOC) instituted at the Governor’s direction following the Re-entry Summit in February where he announced a ban on this practice in county-run facilities. Regulations previously prohibited this practice in state prisons, but that ban did not extend to all correctional facilities in Massachusetts until now. Under the legislation, the DOC will be directed to develop appropriate standards of care for inmates in both state and county facilities compliant with National Commission on Correctional Health Care standards.

The legislation prohibits inmates in labor or those in post-delivery recuperation from being restrained at all, absent extreme cases. The bill also provides that female inmates be screened for pregnancy upon admission to a correctional facility and receive non-directive counseling, daily exercise, appropriate prenatal nutrition and medical care if pregnant while also stipulating that the correctional officer present for any medical examination of an inmate be female, if possible, and ensure the privacy of the patient.

“All women deserve a safe, healthy pregnancy and birth experience,” said Senator Spilka. “It is shocking and outrageous that prisoners in Massachusetts can be shackled during labor. This legislation makes a clear, strong statement that we do not allow this unsafe, inhumane and completely unnecessary practice. We are protecting and promoting women’s health and safety and helping to ensure safer pregnancies, healthier mother-child relationships and stronger communities.”

“I am incredibly proud that today the Governor has signed ‘anti-shackling’ legislation into law, which includes the language from my anti-shackling bill that I have filed for over a decade,” said Representative Khan, Chair of the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities. “I am thrilled that my colleagues in the legislature recognized the importance of this bill and we can now ensure this dangerous and unnecessary practice has been eliminated in the Commonwealth. Thanks to Governor Patrick, NARAL Pro-Choice, the ACLU, the entire Anti-Shackling Steering Committee and my colleague Senator Karen Spilka, we have established one uniform standard that protects the health of all pregnant and post-partum incarcerated women. We are reducing physical and psychological traumas in both mothers and children by providing all pregnant inmates with the appropriate medical treatment throughout the pregnancy, during delivery and in post-partum follow-up care.”

“Passage of this law recognizes that the shackling of pregnant women who are incarcerated is both unsafe and unnecessary, and I am pleased that this prohibition, in all but the most extreme cases, will be the law throughout the Massachusetts corrections system,” said Senator Cynthia Stone Creem.  “All women and their babies deserve adequate pre-natal care and support in a medically safe birthing environment.” 

“This bill represents a major step by the Legislature and the Governor to end the practice of shackling pregnant inmates,” said Senator Jamie Eldridge. “Shackling is inhumane, unnecessary and medically unsafe and I applaud Governor Patrick for working with the House and Senate to pass this common sense legislation to put an end to shackling, provide quality care and safeguard fundamental human rights for women.”

“This legislation provides that all pregnant women, even those in prison, are given basic medical protection from unnecessary and dangerous restraints during labor,” said Senator Patricia Jehlen. “A safe and healthy birth experience is something that all women deserve.”

“I am proud to have joined my colleagues in the Legislature and Governor Patrick in signing into law An Act to Prevent Shackling and Promote Safe Pregnancies for Female Inmates,” said Senator Michael O. Moore. “This law is not only a positive step for women’s rights in Massachusetts, but also protects the safety of the mother and child by ensuring that medical professionals will be able to properly do their job.”

"I was proud to work with my colleagues and the passionate advocates on supporting and passing this important legislation,” said Representative Hank Naughton. “In our society, in whatever circumstance, it is incredibly important to observe and protect the health, safety and dignity of all women. As with so many other issues. I have tremendous faith that our hardworking Massachusetts Corrections professionals can continue to lead the nation and world in rehabilitative and restorative justice, while providing dignity and protection for incarcerated women."

“After years of advocating for this bill, I am glad to see it finally signed into law,” said Representative Ellen Story. “Now Massachusetts can do away with this unnecessary practice and promote safer pregnancies.”

"The anti-shackling bill is a win of logic, common sense, and compassion over unfounded fears and a reliance on the status quo,” said Representative Chris Walsh. "I applaud the work and perseverance of all the advocates for changing this outdated and misinformed practice."

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