Why is shackling still happening?

Almost a year ago, then Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed into law a ban on shackling pregnant incarcerated women. Former federal judge Nancy Gertner has an editorial in the Boston Globe today, however, discussing the recent shackling of a woman from Bristol County Correctional Facility, which is in North Dartmouth, Mass.

Imagine this happening to a loved one of yours:

With every contraction, the metal of the handcuffs would dig into her hand. She couldn’t hold her stomach or push herself up to change position as the pain accelerated. When she got to the emergency room, she was handcuffed again, this time to the bed in which she was to give birth; the cuffs were not removed until an emergency room doctor insisted they come off.

Once again, we must ponder the difference between what’s appropriate and what’s cruel and unusual punishment.

I wrote a piece last April for the Globe discussing what it’s like to give birth while incarcerated. The stories I heard were unreal. And this is not a Massachusetts problem. This is a national problem. We must ensure that women who are in incredible amounts of pain are able to work through their labor freely, for their safety and for the baby’s.

As Gertner writes: “Happy Mother’s Day? Hardly.”


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