Imagine that you are an incarcerated woman in the American prison system. Your life is restricted to a small cell, or a room full of other women. You have one hour to walk around outside each day. And if you ever give birth in prison, you are shackled to the bed during labor.
Incarcerated women have little control in when and how they give birth. Prison guards generally escort them to local hopsitals when the time comes, and their legs and/or arms are tied up en route or in the hospital room, or both. About 2,200 pregnant women were jailed in 2007, and more than 1,300 babies were born there.
Fourteen states currently ban the practice of banning shackling during childbirth. Sign this petition and tell Speaker of the House John Boehner to support federal legislation that addresses the unique needs of female prisoners!
I am writing out of concern for the thousands of incarcerated pregnant women each year who are shackled to beds during labor. In addition to being potentially medically unsafe, this practice unncessarily restricts women during a crucial and vulnerable moment in their lives.
The practice of shackling women remains in place, no doubt, because it is standard practice for incarcerated males. However, incarcerated pregnant women have special needs pertaining to the fact that the safety and health of the next generation depends almost entirely on their physical freedom and safety. Most women are jailed for non-violent crimes. More obviously, labor is not exactly a situation in which women can enact an elaborate, demanding escape plan. "I'm sure you can create your own visual about a woman eight centimeters dilated and in labor," comments Jeanne Conry, a district chair of American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, in a recent Daily Beast article. "The chances of her getting up and running away are pretty slim."
Recently, a white Massachusettes lawyer decided to voluntarily be shackled while giving birth to her third child in order to bring attention to the plight of voiceless incarcerated women, who are mostly minorities.
I urge you to consider legislation that addresses the unique needs of female prisoners!
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