DENVER (AP) ― The Colorado Senate gave initial approval to legislation Tuesday that would ban leg shackles and waist restraints on female inmates during childbirth and limit the use of other restraints during delivery.
In Colorado, guards sometimes handcuff one arm of a state inmate to the bed during labor depending on her escape history and security level.
In rare instances, women are also handcuffed to the bed during delivery, according to the Colorado Department of Corrections. But unlike some other states, the department says Colorado inmates do not have to wear chains around their waist or have their legs restrained during labor or delivery.
The bill would only allow such restraints to be used if officials think the woman poses an immediate threat to medical staff. If restraints are used, authorities would have to maintain a record of what was used and for how long.
Guards would have to use the least restrictive restraints on pregnant inmates while transporting them. State prison officials say they don't use waist restraints or leg shackles, which could put pregnant women at risk of falling, starting in the second trimester.
The bill would apply to city and county jails and juvenile detention facilities in addition to state prisons.
At least six states largely ban the use of shackles on women during childbirth, which has been condemned by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for unnecessarily risking women's health.
The Senate's approval followed a debate that touched on the politics of abortion. Republicans backed the measure even though Democrats refused to include any reference to the babies of inmates.
Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs, tried to add a legislative declaration stating that protecting the health and safety of the mother are vital to a healthy birth and the health of a "born baby."
But some Democrats objected to other parts of the declaration that used the word baby during the time of pregnancy.
Bill sponsor Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster, said her intent was to make sure that female prisoners are being treated humanely at a time when they're the most vulnerable, not to define when a fetus becomes a baby.
The bill is up in House Judiciary on Monday.
Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.
If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.
Thursday, May 06, 2010