Maternity and Birthing

Two More Victories against Inhumane Treatment of Imprisoned Women

Rachel Roth

Two victories in one day: A federal jury in Tennessee affirms that shackling during labor violates women's rights, and the Virginia Department of Corrections announces that it will no longer engage in the practice.

In April, I wrote about an important federal court decision holding the Nashville Sheriff’s Office accountable for violating a woman’s rights by shackling her during labor and then denying her access to a breast pump when she was taken back to jail after giving birth.

Today, The Tennessean reports that a federal jury awarded the woman $200,000 in damages for the wrongs she suffered at the hands of the government. Notably, the judge ruled that the woman’s immigration status was irrelevant to the jury’s decision about whether the Sheriff should compensate her for having violated her rights.

In other news today, the Virginia Department of Corrections announced that it would no longer shackle women during labor, birth, or post-partum recovery.

These developments are two more tangible signs of the growing recognition that all women, including those who have been arrested or are undocumented, deserve to give birth in safe, humane, and dignified circumstances.

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Update: You can read more about the Tennessee trial and monetary award here.

One of the news articles yesterday said that ten states have laws against shackling pregnant women. That article did not take into account the new laws passed this year. The total number is 14: California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia.

Legislation has been introduced in many other states as well.

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