Shackled During Labor, Woman Sues Milwaukee Sheriff

MILWAUKEE (CN) — A federal class action against Milwaukee County and its Sheriff David Clarke Jr. claims he forced an inmate to remain shackled while she delivered her baby, against the protests of her medical team.

Melissa Hall was an inmate at the Milwaukee County Jail from February to August 2013 and went into labor during that time. When she was hospitalized, sheriff’s officers refused requests from medical providers to remove the shackles. She also had to wear leg irons and a “belly-chain” if she wanted to use the restroom, Hall says in her March 14 lawsuit.

Hall says she was injured when her medical team had trouble administering an epidural around the shackles.

“The jail’s blanket shackling policy, and its shackling of plaintiff, are not rationally related to a legitimate, non-punitive purpose,” the complaint states. “Alternatively, it is excessive in relation to any legitimate purpose it allegedly serves. The policy includes no provisions for individualized evaluations of each pregnant inmate.”

Represented by the well-known Chicago civil rights firm of Loevy & Loevy, Hall says the county’s shackling policy is unconstitutional, malicious and recklessly indifferent.

“(S)hackling women during labor can lead to: an inability for medical staff to assess hemorrhaging, rapidly perform an emergency Caesarean section, or move a woman to address an umbilical cord wrapped around the baby’s windpipe, as well as a variety of other problems. Belly chains and leg irons can impact the mother’s balance and increase the risk of falls, thereby endangering the life and health of the child.”

Numerous medical organization have denounced the use of perinatal restraints, including the American Correctional Association, the American Bar Association, the American College of Midwives and the World Health Organization. Federal prisons revised their procedures for pregnant detainees in 2007 to prevent the use of extreme restraints except for necessary security considerations.

Clarke’s office did not return an email seeking comment.

Hall seeks class certification and damages. Her lead attorney is Theresa Kleinhauer.

Sheriff Clarke is a regular guest on Fox News and spoke at the 2016 Republican Convention. He has carried on a long-running feud with County Executive Chris Abele, at one time accusing him of “penis envy.”

A strong supporter of President Donald Trump, Clark traveled to Moscow in 2015, his expenses covered by the Right to Bear Arms Association, a Russian group allied with the National Rifle Association.

Clarke has said that there are “maybe a million” ISIS supporters in the United States, and that they should all be rounded up and sent to the prisons at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

He often appears in public wearing a cowboy hat.