Gov. Cuomo signed legislation Dec. 22 that prohibits the use of restraints during the transport of all pregnant inmates at state and local correctional facilities, and within the first eight weeks postpartum.
Although current law prohibits the use of restraints on an inmate about to give birth, it does not address the use of restraints on pregnant inmates before or after childbirth or pregnancy outcome.
“These common sense reforms strike the right balance that protect the health and dignity of a pregnant inmate, while also addressing public safety concerns,” Cuomo said. “This legislation has made New York’s criminal justice system fairer and stronger, and I thank the sponsors and advocates who worked so hard to get it passed.”
Currently, restraints are being used on pregnant inmates in a number of situations, ranging from trips to weekly medical appointments to trips between prisons, which can take more than 10 hours.
According to a press release, this practice poses tremendous health risks to both the mother and the child. It heightens the risk of blood clots, limits the mobility needed for a safe pregnancy and delivery and increases the risk of falling, which can cause a miscarriage.
“I was very grateful to Governor Cuomo when he signed the original anti-shackling legislation,” said Sen. Velmanette Montgomery. “As the need for expanding the details of the original legislation became apparent, I was confident we would again have his support, and I again thank the governor for his commitment to the health priorities for mother and child in our correctional system.”
“Even while paying for crimes they committed, women are still entitled to be treated as human beings, and today New York makes a big statement with a clear message that we will respect the human rights of the pregnant women in our prison system,” stated Assemblyman N. Nick Perry. “I thank prisoners’ rights advocates and Governor Cuomo, who went the extra mile to make sure we overcame the opposition and made it possible that this bill would be signed into law.”
In addition to the shackling provision, the bill also prohibits the presence of any correctional staff in the delivery room, unless requested by medical staff or the inmate giving birth; requires more rigorous training of all correctional staff on this policy; and institute’s annual detailed reporting of all instances in which officers deem restraints necessary.