By Colleen Quinn
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, MARCH 26, 2014….Using shackles on pregnant inmates would be prohibited - except in cases of flight risk or safety concerns - at state prisons and corrections facilities, under legislation that unanimously cleared the House Wednesday afternoon.
The legislation passed the Senate last week and could reach Gov. Deval Patrick’s desk soon if the branches can reconcile differences in their bills.
The practice of restraining pregnant women prisoners with shackles, even while in childbirth, is still a common occurrence in Massachusetts and policies vary at each corrections facility and prison, according to lawmakers who are pushing for the bill’s passage.
Rep. Kay Khan, a Newton Democrat and sponsor of House bill, called the restraints “demeaning.”
Eighteen other states have banned the use of shackles on pregnant women, including Texas and Louisiana.
In February, Gov. Deval Patrick signed a 90-day emergency regulation prohibiting the practice of shackling women during their second and third trimesters.
The legislation that cleared the House and the Senate (H 3978/S 2063) creates uniform regulations concerning when shackles can be used and prohibits the use of leg restraints.
A corrections officer can use shackles if they believe the inmate poses a safety or flight risk, and then a woman's hands can only be locked in front of her body, not behind.
Khan said the cuffs restrict a women’s ability to change positions for comfort during labor, and could contribute to blood clots.
The bill also requires that all inmates receive pre-natal and post-partum care that includes information about diet and prenatal vitamins, and women with signs of post-partum depression would be screened for mental health services.