Coalition also urges adoption of a public reporting requirement during the next steps of the regulatory processRichmond, VA - The ACLU of Virginia joins a diverse coalition of faith-based organizations, women's rights advocates, and prison reform groups in celebrating Governor McDonnell's June 28, 2013 approval of proposed regulations limiting the use of restraints on pregnant inmates.
"We are delighted by the Governor's approval of proposed new rules that ensure local and regional facilities place limits on the use of restraints on pregnant inmates. The use of restraints on pregnant inmates poses an unacceptable risk to a woman's health, and the health and safety of her pregnancy," said Marco Grimaldo, CEO and President of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy.
"As people of faith who affirm that all persons are worthy of genuine compassion, care, and concern, we applaud Governor McDonnell for approving anti-shackling regulations that limit the use of restraints on pregnant women at local and regional jails. Shackling pregnant women is a barbaric practice that jeopardizes the health and well-being of both the child and mother. This shameful procedure is an affront to the inherent dignity and worth of mothers and children, and we applaud this important step toward increasing access to humane conditions for mothers who are incarcerated," said Laura Markle Downton, Director of U.S. Prisons Policy and Program for the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.
In 2011, in conversation with the coalition, the Virginia Department of Corrections expanded its policy limiting the use of restraints on pregnant inmates. However, many of the reported cases of women being restrained while pregnant have occurred in local and regional jails, which are not covered under the Department of Corrections' policy. The Board of Corrections has the authority to create rules for these facilities and in 2012 it approved proposed regulations limiting the use of restraints on pregnant women at local and regional jails.
Now, with the Governor's approval of these proposed regulations, the new rules will advance to the next step in the regulatory process - a 60 day public comment period starting July 29, 2013.
"I want to commend Governor McDonnell for recognizing the importance of protecting pregnant inmates from unnecessary restraints. I look forward to seeing these regulations finalized in their current form before the end of the year," said Delegate Patrick Hope (Arlington), lead patron of legislation limiting the use of restraints on pregnant inmates.
"The Family Foundation applauds Governor Bob McDonnell for approving the proposed regulations restricting the use of restraints on pregnant inmates. These regulations are a compassionate, commonsense reform essential for the life and well-being of both mother and baby," said Victoria Cobb, President of The Family Foundation.
The medical community, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Public Health Association, and the American Medical Association, oppose the use of restraints on pregnant inmates because the practice is unnecessary and dangerous. Further, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the American Correctional Association have all adopted policies to limit the use of restraints on pregnant inmates. In addition, eighteen states have laws prohibiting or restricting the use of restraints on pregnant inmates.
Kathy Greenier, ACLU-VA Patricia M. Arnold Women's Rights Project Director said, "In order for Virginia to come in line with the sound public policy advanced by national correctional and medical associations and a growing number of states, we encourage swift advancement through the next stages in the regulatory process. Until regulations protecting the health and dignity of pregnant inmates are made final, pregnant inmates will continue to face the possibility of this unnecessary, dangerous, and degrading treatment. There will also remain a lack of accountability with regard to the actions of correctional institutions."
"While we commend the Governor's action, we urge the Board of Corrections and Governor to also include a strong public reporting requirement in the new rules to ensure accountability for and compliance with the regulations. Right now, the proposed regulations do not provide meaningful oversight through public reporting of the instances in which pregnant inmates are restrained under the exceptions to the regulations approved by the Board," said Craig DeRoche, President of Justice Fellowship.
The stories collected by the coalition can be found online at: https://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/20120207ShacklingStories.pdf
The broad coalition of faith-based organizations, women's rights advocates, and prison reform groups, includes, in part, ACLU of Virginia, Delegate Patrick Hope (Arlington), The Family Foundation, Friends of Guest House, Justice Fellowship, Legal Aid Justice Center, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, The Rebecca Project for Human Rights, Social Action Linking Together (SALT), The Virginia Council of Churches, Virginia CURE and Virginia Interfaith Center.