Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Help Break the Chains that Shackle

Recently, the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved Senate Bill 1074 to ban the practice of shackling incarcerated women in Pennsylvania during transport to the hospital, or while in labor, delivery, and/or recovery. And we anticipate that sometime in the next few weeks, the measure will be presented to the full Senate for a vote.

You can help!

Let your state Senator know that you support the bill. You can certainly give them a call or send them an e-mail to express your support. You can also send a letter or spearhead a letter-writing campaign.

Following is a letter you can use to prepare your communication. Below is also a list of facts about shackling.

Don't know who your senator is? Visit www.legis.state.pa.us for more information.

Dear Senator:

We are writing to request your support for SB 1074, which would ban the unsafe and inhumane practice of shackling pregnant women while they are incarcerated in Pennsylvania’s jails and prisons. Shackling not only endangers the lives of women, but also their infants. And the practice is so dangerous, it has been condemned by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

As you are aware, pregnant inmates are always accompanied by security personnel when they are transported to the hospital. And those states and jurisdictions that have successfully banned the practice of shackling — California, Illinois, New Mexico, New York, Texas, and Vermont — have not experienced any incidence of flight or security breach.

It is high time for Pennsylvania to join the ranks of other states that have recognized the dangers associated with shackling. Therefore, I urge you to approve SB 1074 to ensure the health and safety of incarcerated women and their unborn children.

Thank you.

Sincerely,


SHACKLING: FACT v. FICTION

Shackling Poses Health Risks to Mother and Child
• Shackling endangers the health and lives of women and their infants.
• Shackling prevents mothers from properly positioning for treatment, delivery or movement necessary to reduce the risk of clotting and other serious medical complications.
• Shackling can result in decreased blood flow to the fetus.
• Studies have shown that pregnant prisoners have demonstrated high rates of perinatal mortality and morbidity, as well as an increased risk of unplanned or emergency events.
• Shackling poses a serious threat when complications arise and immediate emergency procedures are necessary; delays in removing shackles can impact the health of the mother and baby.
• Shackling interferes with a mother's ability to care for her baby immediately after delivery and can limit her ability to breastfeed.

Banning Shackling Does Not Increase Security Risk
• While states justify using restraints to prevent escapes, no women in labor have ever attempted escape.
• California, Illinois, and Vermont — states that have prohibited the practice of shackling for several years now — have not experienced increased security issues or flight attempts.
• Most women are incarcerated for non-violent crimes; only 14 percent of all violent offenders are women.

Support for Banning Shackling is Growing
• The Federal Bureau of Prisons banned shackling in October 2008 in all but extreme situations.
• California, Illinois, New Mexico, New York, Texas, and Vermont have enacted laws prohibiting the shackling of pregnant prisoners.
• Connecticut, Florida, Rhode Island, Washington, and Wyoming have prison policies prohibiting the shackling of pregnant prisoners.
• The Philadelphia Prison System banned shackling during labor and delivery in May 2008.
• In 2009, Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) introduced SB 1074 to ban the practice in Pennsylvania; in January 2010, the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously passed the measure.

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