CA RALLIES ADVOCATES, WOMEN’S RIGHTS GROUPS & FORMERLY INCARCERATED WOMEN TO URGE GOVERNOR TO SIGN NEW BILL BANNING SHACKLING
New bill strengthens existing ban and extends it to all stages of pregnancy
(October 5, 2015 – New York, NY) Today, an enthusiastic crowd of supporters of a new bill that would end the practice of shackling pregnant women incarcerated in New York gathered across from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s NYC office in busy midtown to urge him to sign the bill when it reaches his desk. State Senator Velmanette Montgomery (D-Brooklyn), who sponsored the bill along with Assemblyman N. Nick Perry (D-Brooklyn), was a featured speaker.
The rally, coordinated and led by the Correctional Association of New York (CA) and the Coalition for Women Prisoners, also included speakers from NOW NY, Planned Parenthood NYC/Family Planning Advocates of NYS, NARAL Pro-Choice NY, and the New York Civil Liberties Union. Although a bill was passed in 2009 banning shackling during labor and childbirth, a 2015 report by the CA revealed that of 27 women interviewed who gave birth after the 2009 law, 23 were illegally shackled. The new legislation would strengthen the 2009 law and extend the ban to include all stages of pregnancy and up to eight weeks post-partum.
“I sponsored this bill because I am outraged that the law I sponsored in 2009 that prohibits shackling during childbirth is being violated,” Sen . Montgomery said. “When we see pictures in history books of people in shackles we are furious, and sometimes we feel superior, but we have no right to feel that way because it continues today.”
The new bill’s co-sponsor, Assemblyman Perry said,” In this renowned progressive State of New York, correctional authorities insist on shackling women while in labor, even after state laws have been passed to prohibit such practices. This new improved anti- shackling bill is a more aggressive approach to ensure accountability and protect the human rights of pregnant women who give birth while incarcerated in our jails and prisons.” He continued: “It’s the right thing to do, and the Governor should have no difficulty meeting this responsibility to all women and families in our state.”
The crowd, some who were themselves shackled during labor and delivery, implored the Governor to sign the 2015 Anti-Shackling Bill, which passed the NYS Legislature overwhelmingly in June and now awaits Cuomo’s signature. Chanting, “New York State, don’t waste time, shackling women is a crime,” many wore shackles and pregnancy prosthetics to illustrate the dangers to both mother and child when movement and access to emergency care are impeded and accidental falls can occur.
“No woman should have to endure what I went through,” said Miyhosi Benton, an advocate for incarcerated women who was herself shackled illegally after she gave birth in 2010. “Shackling pregnant women is barbaric, and I have faith that the Governor will do the right thing and sign the bill.”
Tamar Kraft-Stolar, Director of the CA’s Women in Prison Project, which monitors conditions in the state’s women’s prison, said, “We were deeply disturbed to find widespread violations of the 2009 law. Incarcerated women are also routinely subjected to the horror of being shackled throughout their pregnancies. By signing this bill, Governor Cuomo can end these torturous practices and take a critical step toward protecting the health, safety and human rights of all women.”
Senator Montgomery concluded: “There is no time to waste, and I am looking forward to the Governor swiftly signing this critical bill.”
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