News Law and Policy

Massachusetts Governor Signs Emergency Regulations Prohibiting Shackling of Pregnant Inmates

Emily Crockett

The regulations will sunset after 90 days, but the governor urged the legislature to take action before then on a pending bill that would ban the practice and offer comprehensive health protections for pregnant inmates.

On Thursday, Democratic Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick signed emergency regulations prohibiting the shackling of incarcerated pregnant women for 90 days, and called on the legislature to pass a bill that would both ban the practice and offer comprehensive health protections for pregnant inmates.

The emergency regulations will immediately prohibit the state corrections department from shackling pregnant inmates at the ankle and waist during their second and third trimesters, during labor and childbirth, and immediately postpartum. The regulations will expire after 90 days, but the governor and human rights advocates want the legislature to take permanent action before then.

“We applaud the Governor’s initiative to prohibit this barbaric practice and join him in urging Massachusetts lawmakers to send the Anti-Shackling Bill to his desk to be signed into law this session and ensure consistent basic medical standards to support healthy pregnancies and deliveries for all pregnant women in the Commonwealth,” said Megan Amundson, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, in a statement.

The state senate’s Joint Committee on Public Safety gave a favorable report this week to the anti-shackling bill, which would also provide for prenatal and postpartum medical care. Pregnant inmates would receive regular medical monitoring, proper nutrition and supplements, health information, and postpartum depression screening.

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The Massachusetts bill is one of several anti-shackling bills introduced this year. Eighteen states currently have laws against the practice.

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