Hawaii Lawmakers Ban Practice of Routinely Shackling Pregnant Inmates

Affiliate: ACLU of Hawaii
July 19, 2011 12:00 am

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New law restricts shackling of women during labor and childbirth

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HONOLULU – The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii (“ACLU of Hawaii”) applauds the passage and signing of S.B. 219, forbidding the Hawaii Department of Public Safety from using physical restraints on pregnant inmates except under extraordinary circumstances. Among other improvements, the new law prohibits prison guards from shackling pregnant women during labor, delivery, and postpartum recovery.

As Laurie Temple, ACLU of Hawaii staff attorney, explained, “Shackling pregnant women without cause is cruel and unusual punishment, prohibited by the U.S. Constitution. Pregnant women need proper treatment for their physical conditions. We are very pleased that the Legislature and the Governor finally put an end to this practice.”

This bill prohibits the act of forcibly shackling pregnant inmates – a practice that can not only harm the woman’s health, but may also cause serious harm to her pregnancy. The American Medical Association (AMA) and other leading health organizations assert that the practice of shackling pregnant inmates is dangerous, in some cases causing fetal heartbeats to slow and causing brain damage or death. Since 2006, the United Nations lists the shackling of pregnant inmates as a form of torture.

This new measure makes Hawaii the fourteenth state to restrict the shackling of pregnant inmates.

The mission of the ACLU of Hawaii is to protect the fundamental freedoms enshrined in the U.S. and State Constitutions. The ACLU of Hawaii fulfills this through legislative, litigation, and public education programs statewide. The ACLU of Hawaii is a non-partisan and private nonprofit organization that provides its services at no cost to the public and does not accept government funds. The ACLU of Hawaii has been serving Hawaii since 1965.

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