New law bans shackling of incarcerated women in labor
“I went into labor at 5 in the morning,” said Venita Pinckney, who was taken from Bedford Hills Correctional Facility to a hospital for her son’s birth last November.
“At 6 in the morning, waiting for trip officers to take me to Westchester medical, I was shackled at the ankles and wrists, with a black box on top of handcuffs, and they put waist restraints around my stomach twice. We didn’t leave the facility until 8 in the morning. I didn’t get to the hospital until 9. I was still in those handcuffs, restraints, shackles and black box.
Where was I going in labor? Where could I have moved to, where could I have gone while in labor?”
Venita was one of the formerly incarcerated women who bravely shared their experiences at a series of public demonstrations outside of Governor David Paterson’s office this summer in support of the Anti-Shackling Bill.
The Anti-Shackling Bill passed unanimously in the Senate and overwhelmingly in the Assembly on May 20. The legislation forbids the use of shackles and restraints on incarcerated women during labor, childbirth, and post-delivery recovery, and restricts the use of restraints during transport to and from the hospital.
Throughout the summer, advocates held public demonstrations aimed at pressing the Governor to sign the bill into law.
Supporters were pleased and honored when Governor Paterson made a surprise appearance at an August 18 rally and explained to the crowd that he would sign the legislation.
“We commend Governor Paterson for taking this important step to end the inhumane practice of shackling incarcerated women in labor,” says Tamar Kraft-Stolar, Director of the Correctional Association’s Women in Prison Project.
“This law moves New York one step closer to making sure that women in prison are treated with dignity and compassion.”
Among those at the August 18 demonstration were women who had given birth while shackled; Senator Velmanette Montgomery and Assemblymember N. Nick Perry, the bill’s sponsors; and dozens of other advocates.
“We greatly appreciate Senator Montgomery and Assemblymember Perry’s leadership in ensuring that women in prison are treated humanely, says Serena Alfieri of the Women in Prison Project.
“We’re proud to have partnered with them and with Women On the Rise Telling HerStory, the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Legal Aid Society, Hour Children, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and so many other organizations and individuals on this critical piece of legislation.”
The Correctional Association and the Women in Prison Project extend a very special thank you to the many women who were courageous enough to talk about their experiences with childbirth in prison. It is in large part because of their willingness to speak up—to make sure the lawmakers and the public understood what was really going on—that this law is now a reality.
A recent report by the Prisoner Reentry Institute of John Jay College (PRI), “Women InJustice: Gender and the Pathway to Jail in New York City,” is the latest study point out that that physical and sexual trauma and abuse histories are a significant root cause for women and girls’ involvement in the criminal legal system. Read More
This story is the seventh piece in the Truthout series, Severed Ties: The Human Toll of Prisons. This series dives deeply into the impact of incarceration on families, loved ones and communities, demonstrating how the United States' incarceration of more than 2 million people also harms many millions more -- including 2.7 million children. Most [...]Read More
Under unique statutory authority granted to the CA in 1846, WIPP monitors conditions in women’s prisons in New York, a role played by no other group in the country. WIPP coordinates the Coalition for Women Prisoners, a statewide alliance of more than 1,800 people, and carries out advocacy campaigns to reform harmful criminal justice policies. [...]Read More
Watch the Correctional Association’s video about the barbaric – and illegal – shackling of incarcerated women during childbirth. In 2009 New York enacted a statute restricting the use of shackles on women during childbirth. The law bans outright the use of restraints on women throughout labor, delivery and recovery “after giving birth,” which is meant [...]Read More