Although it has been established that it is inhumane and dangerous to shackle a pregnant woman or girl, it is still a routine practice in U.S. jails, prisons and youth detention centers. New York is one of the few states with legislation against this degrading and hazardous practice.
Added risk for the mother and fetus
If a pregnant prisoner is restrained at any point, there’s a greater chance that she’ll accidentally fall or trip. This presents a danger both to the pregnant woman and her fetus and puts her at risk of having a miscarriage.
Shackling is dangerous to women who are in labor, delivery or postpartum recovery. If the prisoner is shackled, it might get in the way of necessary medical care. This can be to the detriment of both the mother’s health and that of her unborn child.
No risk to staff
Despite the lack of justification for its continued usage, the risks it presents to the prisoners and their fetuses and the degrading nature of this practice, there are only 18 states that prohibit or restrict the shackling of pregnant women in their prisoner’s rights law. Of the 10 states that prohibit the shackling of pregnant prisoners completely, there have been no reports of escapes or threats to anyone’s safety without these women being put in shackles.
Part of the outrage around this continued practice is the fact that it’s hard to justify putting a pregnant prisoner in shackles. Usually, when a prisoner is shackled, it’s done to keep the public safe. It might also be for the safety and security of correctional officers, medical staff and others working in the facility. But when a pregnant woman is shackled, the data indicates that the only person put into harm’s way is the expecting mother herself.