innocence blog

A Web log for the Innocence Institute of Point Park University

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Shackling Controversy

This is a local article about the practice of shackling pregnant prisoners while they give birth. It appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette today, April 19, 2006:
By Cristina Rouvalis, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Sheriff's deputies are shackling some female inmates to the bed during childbirth at Magee-Womens Hospital, officials there said, and the practice has prompted an outcry from advocacy groups.

Sheriff Pete DeFazio said he had no knowledge of any shackling during labor. "That's crazy. It's hard for me to believe. To tell you the truth, I don't believe it."

But Trish Nelson, the hospital's unit director for labor and delivery, said of the 15 to 20 inmates from Allegheny County Jail who give birth every year, about half are restrained by one wrist to the sideboard of the bed by a deputy.

"I would prefer they not be handcuffed at all," said Ms. Nelson, who is a nurse. "It is easier for them to move around. But if they insist on a patient being handcuffed, it is one arm to the side rail.

You can still sit up and turn from side to side."
If an arm restraint impedes the delivery as it progresses, a doctor or nurse will ask the deputy to remove it. She said they usually comply.

The shackling of inmates in labor, apparently done at the discretion of the attending deputy, was confirmed by a 29-year-old woman who lives in Braddock and gave birth at Magee about six months ago.

The inmate, facing drug, simple assault and theft charges, said she was upset that she was shackled on her right arm because it impeded her movement from the waist down. She said the male deputy guarding her told her he was new and that he was following orders.

For the whole story, click here.

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