Stop Shackling Pregnant Female Prisoners in Labor


Target: The United States House, the United States Senate, and the United States President Barack Obama

Goal: Make it a federal offense to shackle female inmates during the birth process

In thirty three American states, prisoners are shackled while giving birth. Proponents of this practice claim that without shackles, inmates giving birth would “feign illness and escape.” This logic is absurd as well as dangerous. During labor, a woman is hardly physically able to leap off of the bed and escape. The shackles cause harm to both the woman giving birth and to her baby.

The American Correctional association requires “written policy, procedure and practice, in general, prohibit(ing) the use of restraints on female offenders during active labor and the delivery of a child.”  Several states have passed laws banning the use of shackles on pregnant prisoners during labor, and others have gone as far as outlawing all shackling during medical emergencies.

Although this is a positive step, not all prisons enforce the bans. Indeed, a federal court just approved a settlement against a prison in Chicago where shackles were used on pregnant women despite a statewide ban. Shackling prisoners during labor needs to be made a federal crime in order to ensure that prisons discontinue this harmful and barbaric practice.

Pregnant women must be treated humanely, regardless of their criminal histories. Tell President Obama that the shackling of pregnant inmates during the birthing process must become a federal offense.


Dear President Obama,

You claim to stand against human rights violations. One of the gravest violations of human rights is occurring in American prisons–the shackling of pregnant women during labor. This practice is barbaric and dangerous. It harms the pregnant prisoners both physically and mentally; it also causes harm to their children. Several states have outlawed the practice of shackling inmates during labor, but many prisons continue the practice despite its prohibition. Furthermore, thirty-three states have not made efforts to ban shackling during labor at all.

Human rights groups, medical authorities, and the American Correctional Association have all spoken out about the dangers of shackling pregnant inmates. If shackling female inmates became a federal offense, prisons would be less likely to continue the practice. Statewide bans are a good first step, but the federal government must weigh in on this issue. Prisoners are human beings, and pregnant prisoners deserve safe and human delivery conditions. Issue a federal ban on the shackling of pregnant prisoners during labor.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Ibrahim Lujaz via Flickr

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