Massachusetts Governor Signs Emergency Regulations Prohibiting Shackling of Pregnant Inmates


On Thursday, Democratic Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick signed emergency regulations prohibiting the shackling of incarcerated pregnant women for 90 days, and called on the legislature to pass a bill that would both ban the practice and offer comprehensive health protections for pregnant inmates.

The emergency regulations will immediately prohibit the state corrections department from shackling pregnant inmates at the ankle and waist during their second and third trimesters, during labor and childbirth, and immediately postpartum. The regulations will expire after 90 days, but the governor and human rights advocates want the legislature to take permanent action before then.

“We applaud the Governor’s initiative to prohibit this barbaric practice and join him in urging Massachusetts lawmakers to send the Anti-Shackling Bill to his desk to be signed into law this session and ensure consistent basic medical standards to support healthy pregnancies and deliveries for all pregnant women in the Commonwealth,” said Megan Amundson, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, in a statement.

The state senate’s Joint Committee on Public Safety gave a favorable report this week to the anti-shackling bill, which would also provide for prenatal and postpartum medical care. Pregnant inmates would receive regular medical monitoring, proper nutrition and supplements, health information, and postpartum depression screening.

The Massachusetts bill is one of several anti-shackling bills introduced this year. Eighteen states currently have laws against the practice.

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  • fiona64

    I hate to admit it, but I would never have even remotely considered that something as barbaric as shackling pregnant women goes on … I guess that speaks to a previously-unconsidered type of privilege. :-( I am embarrassed that I had no idea about this.

    • Mirable

      In Canada a few months back a woman was left shackled in a cell for hours on end while she screamed in pain from a breach birth. The prison officials ignored her suffering. Apparently her screams of pain were so horrifying that other prisoners were visibly shook up.

      Torture pure and simple. And to hell with anyone who says that birth is a minor hardship because epidurals and c sections are * always * available.

  • Rachel Roth

    Thank you for covering this issue. The emergency regulations also apply to county jails so that ALL pregnant women imprisoned in the state will be free from shackling. You’re in good company, fiona64; the members of the Public Safety Committee didn’t know about this problem, either. If you want to learn more, check out my posts over at MomsRising.