Big Human Rights Step for Arizona

     PHOENIX (CN) – Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law a bill that limits jails and prisons from restraining prisoners while they give birth.
     SB 1184 states that restraints may be used only if “attending medical staff requests the use of restraints” or if the “prisoner or detainee presents an extraordinary circumstance.”
     The bill bans leg, waist or any restraints that “hinder the ability of the physician to move the prisoner or detainee” while she is in labor or delivery.
     “The end of this dangerous and widespread practice is long overdue,” ACLU of Arizona Public Policy Director Anjali Abraham said in a statement.
     “Restraining a pregnant woman can pose undue health risks to the woman and her child, and this bill reaffirms that pregnant women in prison – and their children – do not lose their right to safe and humane treatment.”
     If restraints are used, under the new law, “the type of restraint applied and the application of the restraint must be done in the least restrictive manner necessary.” Also, officials must “make written findings within 14 days as to the extraordinary circumstance that dictated the use of the restraints,” and the findings must be kept on file for at least two years and made available to the public.
     The law allow use of a “security tether chain” after the prisoner has given birth, but the chain must be long enough for the prisoner to reach the bathroom of the room she is staying in, or “to exit the bed and stand in any other recovery setting.”
     The law comes after a December lawsuit in which a woman claimed Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s deputies shackled her while she was in labor, before and after she gave birth, and forced her to walk from the hospital shackled hand and foot.
     Arizona is the 15th state to ban or limit such shackling. The bill was sponsored by state Sen. Linda Gray, a Glendale Republican.

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