FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Alessandra Soler Meetze, ACLU of Arizona, (602) 773-6006 (office) or 602-418-5499 (cell)
PHOENIX – In a historic win for women and mothers in Arizona, Governor Jan Brewer today signed a bill banning the practice of restraining pregnant inmates in shackles. The bill – which generated support from across the ideological spectrum – prevents jail officials from using leg or waist restraints during transportation, labor, delivery and postpartum recovery. With the passage of SB 1184, Arizona now joins 14 other states in banning this inhumane and unconstitutional practice.
"The end of this dangerous and widespread practice is long overdue," said ACLU of Arizona Public Policy Director Anjali Abraham, who worked with the bill’s sponsor, Senator Linda Gray (Republican- District 10), to garner support from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. "Restraining a pregnant woman can pose undue health risks to the woman and her child, and this bill reaffirms that pregnant women in prison—and their children—do not lose their right to safe and humane treatment."
The bill was drafted based on Arizona Department of Corrections policy and protects pregnant women incarcerated in county jails throughout Arizona. An ACLU analysis of county jail policies from across the state found that because there was no state law restricting the use of restraints on pregnant inmates, each jail had adopted its own set of policies and procedures that subjected pregnant inmates in Arizona jails to belly, leg and/or hand restraints, even while giving birth. In some jurisdictions, women wear leg irons on the way to the hospital to give birth. In Maricopa County, restraints are used until the woman goes into “active labor” or is administered an epidural.
“For far too long, shackling a pregnant inmate was a common practice that was not only dangerous to women and children, but made no sense considering most women inmates are nonviolent offenders who pose low security risks,” added Anjali. “Our legislators were rightly concerned about this practice. Not one Arizona legislator voted against this bill.”
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Correctional Association, Federal Bureau of Prisons, the American Medical Association, and the American Public Health Association all condemn the practice of shackling pregnant women. In addition, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2009 that the practice was considered cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.
SB 1184, which does permit corrections officials to use the least restrictive restraints necessary for individuals perceived as a security risk, passed unanimously in both the House and Senate.
To read a copy of the bill, visit: http://www.azleg.gov/legtext/50leg/2r/bills/sb1184s.pdf.