CORRECTIONAL ASSOCIATION OF NY HAILS NEW LAW ENDING SHACKLING OF INCARCERATED WOMEN THROUGOUT ALL STAGES OF PREGNANCY

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT:
Annette Warren-Dickerson, Communications Director, adickerson@correctionalassociation.org
646-539-5911/646-924-5244
Soffiyah Elijah, Executive Director, selijah@correctionalassociation.org
617-905-7623
Tamar Kraft-Stolar, Co-Director, Women and Justice Project, tamar@womenandjusticeproject.org
917-816-4184

CORRECTIONAL ASSOCIATION OF NY HAILS NEW LAW ENDING SHACKLING OF INCARCERATED WOMEN THROUGOUT ALL STAGES OF PREGNANCY

Calls the Legislation a Victory for Human Rights and Reproductive Justice for Women in Prison

(December 22, 2015, New York): Today, the Correctional Association of New York (CA), a leading opponent of the practice of shackling pregnant women who are incarcerated, roundly applauded Governor Cuomo for signing the 2015 Anti-Shackling Bill.  It is considered to be the most progressive such legislation in the nation. The new law fortifies an existing 2009 ban against shackling during labor and delivery, and, most significantly, extends the law to include all stages of pregnancy.

In a report released earlier this year by the CA’s Women in Prison Project on reproductive health care for women in New York State prisons, 23 out of 27 women reported being shackled in direct violation of the earlier ban.  The new law, in addition to widening the pool of protected women, also:

  • bars correctional staff from the delivery room unless the woman or medical personnel request their presence
  • institutes yearly reporting of all incidents  in which guards have deemed shackling necessary
  • requires rigorous training of all staff about the policy.

Soffiyah Elijah, Executive Director, enthusiastically welcomed the signing of the bill. “Ending the barbaric practice of shackling pregnant women is essential to protecting babies and their mothers. The criminal justice system must always acknowledge the humanity and dignity of the people involved and this law will help to codify that for pregnant women. “   Elijah continued:  “The CA, as the only independent organization with unfettered access to New York’s prisons, will be taking an active role in monitoring compliance with the law, and we are we looking forward to  working with allies and advocates to ensure that women are educated about the new law and their rights.”

The 2015 bill, which was sponsored by Senator Velmanette Montgomery (D-Brooklyn) and Assembly member N. Nick Perry (D-Brooklyn), was passed overwhelmingly by both chambers of the NYS Legislature in June.

Tamar Kraft-Stolar, former Director of the Women in Project and now Co-Director of the Woman and Justice Project, said, “This law marks New York State’s recognition that shackling during pregnancy is an unacceptable practice that violates women’s health, safety and human rights.  We are honored to have partnered on this long-fought campaign with Assembly member Perry, Senator Montgomery, many allies, and, most importantly, the brave and powerful women who experienced the horror of shackling first-hand and shared their experiences.   It is because of their courage and advocacy that this law is now a reality.  As we celebrate this critical victory, we strengthen our resolve to challenge the brutality that defines our prison system and put an end to our destructive overuse and misuse of incarceration for women and all people.”

Miyoshi Benton, who was shackled throughout her pregnancy and has spoken about it publicly, is now an advocate for incarcerated mothers. Benton said, “The signing of this bill is very significant for me and women like me. This bill protects the women and babies who cannot speak for themselves. Thank you, Governor Cuomo, for safeguarding them.”

Bridgette Gibbs, a student who has recounted her experiences being pregnant and shackled in a recently released video entitled, “It’s Time for New York To End Shackling,” expressed elation at the announcement. “I am grateful to have been a part of the movement to end this barbaric practice. No one should have to endure what I did.”