Restraint of Pregnant Inmates Is Said to Persist in New York Despite Ban

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From The New York Times:

Maria C in NYT 4-10-15

Maria Caraballo and her daughter Estrella
Photo Credit: Christopher Gregory for the New York Times.

If you go by the official records of the New York State prison system, Tina Tinen’s account of being shackled right before and immediately after the birth of her son is fiction.

But the real world has never lived just in official records, no more than it dwells only in anecdotes.

First, her story.

Ms. Tinen was doing a year for selling drugs, and had arrived in prison halfway through her pregnancy. On her due date in November 2011, the labor came on so fast that guards called for an ambulance to take her to the hospital from the women’s prison in Bedford Hills.
“Earth-stopping pain,” she said. “The ambulance arrived. I was handcuffed to the gurney.”

At the hospital, she said, she remained cuffed to the gurney as the contractions accelerated. “It was about one minute apart, just blinding pain,” she said. “I remember the clock on the wall of the room. I would see the minute hand, the second hand, and the hand would barely go around the clock and I would be screaming: ‘No! No! No!’ ”

The handcuff was unlocked when she was moved to a hospital bed. Her son, Blake, her only child, was born 19 minutes after she arrived. Later, she said, when she was permitted to go from a locked ward to the nursery, the corrections officers shackled her legs and her wrists. “They said, ‘We’re going to do you a little favor, and put a towel on your wrists,’ ” Ms. Tinen said. She was uncuffed, she said, long enough to give the baby a bottle.

There is no dispute that this kind of restraint is almost never supposed to happen.

In 2009, the State Legislature passed a bill banning the shackling of pregnant women just before, during or after childbirth, and it was signed into law by Gov. David A. Paterson. At the time, the state’s official policy for nine years had forbidden the practice, but so many women had come forward to tell of being shackled and or handcuffed as they were being taken to the hospital from prison or jail to give birth that the Legislature acted.

Yet in a survey done since the ban became law, 23 of the 27 pregnant women who were interviewed reported that they were restrained in violation of its provisions, according to a report issued in February by the Correctional Association of New York, a private organization that has had permission for more than 150 years to inspect the state’s prisons.

Read the rest of this New York Times article by Jim Dwyer.