shackling of women during birth in prisons

July 6, 2009 § 2 Comments

h/t radical doula

from rh reality check

check out this article on giving birth in shackles.

Last month, a former Washington inmate sued the state for shackling during her birthing process and high-risk pregnancy, treatment that included a leg iron and a metal chain across her stomach.

Also last month, former inmates of Cook County jail filed a federal lawsuit in Illinois challenging the facility’s shackling practice. Illinois was the first state to have legislation that prohibited shackling; it remains one of four states that make shackling explicitly illegal.

“I had no idea women were treated like that anywhere,” said Tina Reynolds, who was shackled during labor and the birth of her son fifteen years ago.

“Shackling is a brutal and inherently unjust practice, so blatantly draconian,” said Malika Saada Saar, executive director of The Rebecca Project (and contributor to RH Reality Check).

“The problem is that policies for incarcerated men are extended to women without adapting to distinct circumstances,” Saada Saar added.

i am really glad to hear that the activists around this issue are framing it as a human rights violation.  that this is cruel and unusual punishment.  and that it is torture.

because that is what it is.  it is a practices that causes physical and psychological trauma to the mother as well as child.  someone in the article described it as ‘draconian’ and i kept imagining these medieval torture chambers.

what i have a hard time imagining is the justification for this practice.  really?  so that the woman doesnt escape incarceration.  something tells me that this was said by someone who has not gotten to experience the glorious miracle of labor.  ummm….in the middle of labor is the woman really going to have the energy to break out of prison?

Leaders in the anti-shackling movement credit the campaign’s momentum to centering the experiences of women who were shackled. Their stories are featured at press conferences, in letters, in briefs, and other campaign vehicles. Many are collected through Women on the Rise Telling HerStory (WORTH), an association of formerly incarcerated women founded by Reynolds.

“It may be possible to resist changes (to the practice of shackling), but when you’re confronted with the reality of women who’ve had to endure this, that’s a hard position to maintain,” said Rhoad.

i was thinking earlier that we dont center the voices and experiences of the marginalized simply because it makes us look good.  no, we (as community builders) do so not only because it is ethical but also because it is effective.

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