Should pregnant women be shackled in prison?

I’m really glad to see the momentum building in our favor when it comes to the treatment of pregnant women in prison – but let’s remember for a second where these practices come from: they are based on the way men are treated in prison.

Women used to be a rarity in prisons and jails, a trend reversed in recent decades with the war on drugs. When women’s prisons cropped up with more frequency, many of the practices and policies that had applied in men’s prisons were simply transferred to the women.

Should anyone be shackled in prison? Is that a humane way to treat anyone, pregnant or not?

~ Abortion doula and feminist Miriam Zoila Pérez, gratified that California will ban shackling pregnant inmates, Radical Doula, October 1

30 thoughts on “Should pregnant women be shackled in prison?”


  1. Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/jills/public_html/wp/wp-content/plugins/subscribe-to-comments/subscribe-to-comments.php on line 590
    DeniseNoe says:

    The so-called “war on drugs” isn’t succeeding in its goal of preventing drug abuse. It is just putting people behind bars for no good reason.  

       3 likes


  2. Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/jills/public_html/wp/wp-content/plugins/subscribe-to-comments/subscribe-to-comments.php on line 590
    Jen says:

    I don’t quite understand the logic by Perez here.  So, is she saying there’s something inhumane about shackling a woman just because she’s pregnant?  Why?  Is there something special about being pregnant — something dignified and sacred that’s being sullied by being shackled?  I thought it was just a insentient thing using the mother’s body, like a parasite.  What’s the big deal then?  If there’s not another person in there, another human being, if mom is just hosting an intruder with no human rights whatsoever, then you’re simply shackling another criminal.  Her pregnancy should make no difference at all.

    Only in prison do the abortion zealots see the dignity in pregnancy and childbearing??   

       22 likes


  3. Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/jills/public_html/wp/wp-content/plugins/subscribe-to-comments/subscribe-to-comments.php on line 590
    Jamie says:

    Being imprisoned is a tragedy brought onto a person by her actions. I think a pregnant woman should receive good care in prison for her pregnancy–that would be very humane. But imagine if a woman could get out of a prison sentence simply by becoming pregnant! Pregnancy and motherhood ARE sacred states, which is why women should see to themselves and keep themselves out of the penal system.

       5 likes


  4. Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/jills/public_html/wp/wp-content/plugins/subscribe-to-comments/subscribe-to-comments.php on line 590
    Alice says:

    “Should anyone be shackled in prison?”  Does this lady even know what she’s talking about?  I admit, I don’t know what this specific prisoner did, so maybe that is extreme for her.  But there are a lot of people in prison who are not fluffy bunny rabbits.  Murderers.  Rapists.  Chronic abusers.  Yes, it is most definitely the humane thing, when needed, to restrain violent people, with shackles if necessary, to prevent them from hurting others.

       10 likes


  5. Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/jills/public_html/wp/wp-content/plugins/subscribe-to-comments/subscribe-to-comments.php on line 590
    phillymiss says:

    Jen, I agree, if it’s a blob in there that can be destroyed at will, what’s the problem with shackling pregnant women?  I don’t get it.

    Alice, you are right, there are some very dangerous people around.  There are some people that have been unjustly accused of crimes, but I would say that the majority of those in prison deserve to be there.  If you have slender wrists, you can slip through a pair of handcuffs, but you can’t run in shackles.

       9 likes


  6. Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/jills/public_html/wp/wp-content/plugins/subscribe-to-comments/subscribe-to-comments.php on line 590
    Carla says:

    You can surely take female prisoners to abort that baby at taxpayer expense though.

    Jen,
    Excellent comment! 

       7 likes


  7. Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/jills/public_html/wp/wp-content/plugins/subscribe-to-comments/subscribe-to-comments.php on line 590
    Pamela says:

    She “cares” enough about a pregnant woman to not want to see one shackled.
    yet, she’s an “abortion doula”.

    So…she thinks shackling a pregnant prisoner is “inhumane”, but abortion ISN’T???

    Wow.
     

       15 likes


  8. Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/jills/public_html/wp/wp-content/plugins/subscribe-to-comments/subscribe-to-comments.php on line 590
    DeniseNoe says:

    A woman is scheduled for execution.
    She is pregnant.
    Should the execution be delayed? 

       3 likes


  9. Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/jills/public_html/wp/wp-content/plugins/subscribe-to-comments/subscribe-to-comments.php on line 590
    Ella Rae says:

    Like the article points out, there is a history in our country of women prisoners being shackled DURING LABOR AND DELIVERY. I’m sure we can all agree that there is something pretty screwed up about that. If there is a hard and fast ban on the shackling of pregnant women, and it prevents women from giving birth with their arms or legs shackled together or to a medical gurney, then I fully support that ban. I would hope you would, too.
     

       1 likes


  10. Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/jills/public_html/wp/wp-content/plugins/subscribe-to-comments/subscribe-to-comments.php on line 590
    DeniseNoe says:

    Ella Rae says:
    October 3, 2012 at 2:49 pm
    Like the article points out, there is a history in our country of women prisoners being shackled DURING LABOR AND DELIVERY. I’m sure we can all agree that there is something pretty screwed up about that. 

    (Denise) Some of those women prisoners may be extremely nasty people. They also might use any chance they get to escape.  It is sad but this might actually be necessary.  

       2 likes


  11. Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/jills/public_html/wp/wp-content/plugins/subscribe-to-comments/subscribe-to-comments.php on line 590
    Jespren says:

    DeniseNoe, spoken like someone who has clearly never been in labor! I don’t care how ‘nasty’ you are, the meanest, vilest, most flightly criminal in the world still isn’t going to slip out of a guarded room and escape a hospital while in active labor. The human body is simply incapable of such a feat. A woman in active labor can’t out-waddle a prison guard. I’m all for harsh prisons and harsh treatment of prisoners, but shackling a laboring woman to the bed or in any way confining her movement is tantamount to torture and, last I checked, we don’t agree with the torture of criminals in the U.S.

       3 likes


  12. Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/jills/public_html/wp/wp-content/plugins/subscribe-to-comments/subscribe-to-comments.php on line 590
    ninek says:

    Everyone who thinks ALL shackling of ALL pregnant women should be banned, should have to spend time working with violent offenders who would bite you as soon as look at you.   I had an aquaintance that was beaten and thrown down a flight of stairs by a pregnant woman who was quite far along in the pregnancy.  Granted, the aquaintance was no angel, but the mother was part wolverine ;>)!

    And lastly, I agree with you pro-lifers: the real event that is tantamount to torture is abortion itself.   I think abortion doulas are some of the most reprehensible people in the abortion industry.  WHO is being aborted not WHAT.   Helping people murder each other should land them in jail.   I look forward to that day.  

       8 likes


  13. Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/jills/public_html/wp/wp-content/plugins/subscribe-to-comments/subscribe-to-comments.php on line 590
    DeniseNoe says:

    Could my question be dealt with:
    If a woman is scheduled for execution, would it be delayed if she is found to be pregnant? 

       1 likes


  14. Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/jills/public_html/wp/wp-content/plugins/subscribe-to-comments/subscribe-to-comments.php on line 590
    Jespren says:

    DeniseNoe, probably most thought it was rhetorical. Yes, it’s the woman who is scheduled for execution, not her child, execution should wait until after birth. And, from a legal standpoint, no state in the U.S. (unless it’s been recently changed) will execute a pregnant woman since pregnancy is considered a ‘medical condition’ and all prisoners must be in sound health to be executed (which is just weird but it’s how the law is written).

       5 likes


  15. Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/jills/public_html/wp/wp-content/plugins/subscribe-to-comments/subscribe-to-comments.php on line 590
    CT says:

    Of course it should be delayed. No brainer.

       4 likes


  16. Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/jills/public_html/wp/wp-content/plugins/subscribe-to-comments/subscribe-to-comments.php on line 590
    ninek says:

    Hold your shoes, I’m replying to CT.  Just playing the part of the abortion advocates who might ask, “But what if she intended to abort; would the prison then be obligated to terminate them both at the same time, or would they give her access to an abortion, and then after she recovers, execute her?”

       1 likes


  17. Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/jills/public_html/wp/wp-content/plugins/subscribe-to-comments/subscribe-to-comments.php on line 590
    DeniseNoe says:

    Is it really so obvious that a pregnant woman’s execution should be delayed?  This gives condemned women an incentive to get pregnant.  I’ve read that way back in the 1950s some people talked about sneaking sperm to a condemned woman (she was pre-menopausal) so she might “plead her belly” and delay the execution.

       0 likes


  18. Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/jills/public_html/wp/wp-content/plugins/subscribe-to-comments/subscribe-to-comments.php on line 590
    DeniseNoe says:

    Are you all familiar with 18th Century murderess Bathsheba Spooner? She “pleaded her belly” and was examined twice. The first examiners said she was lying and was not “quick with child.” The 2nd group was divided with some believing she lied and others saying she was indeed “quick with child” and the execution should be delayed.
    It went ahead as scheduled. An autopsy was done and a 5 month male fetus was found.
    There was a big stir about it afterward with criticism for not delaying the execution until it could be ascertained with certainty as to whether or not she lied.

       0 likes


  19. Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/jills/public_html/wp/wp-content/plugins/subscribe-to-comments/subscribe-to-comments.php on line 590
    Jespren says:

    DeniseNoe, condemned women are in *prison*. Yes, I know some guards are immoral enough to sleep with their prisoners, but it’s not like a condemned woman can just slide down to the local bar and pick up Joe Scmoe to knock her up. There would be just as much ‘incentive’, as well as a far more ability, to break a few bones, aquire a non-lethal stab/laceration wound, etc, etc. That an execution should be delayed until a separate, innocent 3rd party won’t be killed as well *is* “so obvious”.

       3 likes


  20. Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/jills/public_html/wp/wp-content/plugins/subscribe-to-comments/subscribe-to-comments.php on line 590
    Jespren says:

    Forgot to add, in many countries execution of pregnant women is delayed until after the child is weaned (between 6 months and 2 years) because society recognizes that is what’s best for the innocent 3rd party. That the U.S. penal system doesn’t allow mothers to take their kids to prison, even their infants, is inhumane and abhorrant to some cultures.

       3 likes


  21. Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/jills/public_html/wp/wp-content/plugins/subscribe-to-comments/subscribe-to-comments.php on line 590
    Alexandra says:

    Denise, that’s from hundreds of years ago and even then the consensus was that the execution should be delayed until she had given birth – the debate centered around whether or not she was pregnant, not whether or not she should be executed while pregnant. We have technology that would render that debate obsolete these days. So there is really no reason to believe that anybody would oppose delaying the execution of a pregnant prisoner. As for whether a woman would use pregnancy to delay her own execution – prisoners use all kinds of appeals etc to delay their own execution already. That doesn’t mean we take away their right to appeal. So there’s no real likelihood of an argument there, either.

    What would be an interesting question for pro-abortion-rights people is if the prisoner herself should be able to decide whether to delay the execution or have the fetus die with her in it. 

       4 likes


  22. Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/jills/public_html/wp/wp-content/plugins/subscribe-to-comments/subscribe-to-comments.php on line 590
    DeniseNoe says:

    Alexandra says:
    October 4, 2012 at 10:50 am
    Denise, that’s from hundreds of years ago and even then the consensus was that the execution should be delayed until she had given birth – the debate centered around whether or not she was pregnant, not whether or not she should be executed while pregnant. 

    (Denise) The question was whether or not she was “quick with child.”  Being pregnant per se would NOT delay the execution unless she had reached “quickening,” a state at which the fetus was felt to have independent movement.
    According to Human Life Review, quickening was rejected as a criterion with the invention of the stethoscope that showed embryos moved early in pregnancy. 

       0 likes


  23. Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/jills/public_html/wp/wp-content/plugins/subscribe-to-comments/subscribe-to-comments.php on line 590
    Alexandra says:

    Right, because back hundreds of years ago quickening was the most reliable “pregnancy test” out there. As you note, once technology allowed doctors to to independently verify pregnancy earlier (ie with a stethoscope) quickening stopped being used as the standard “pregnancy test.” We have even more sophisticated technology today, obviously. So the debate was over whether she was pregnant, not whether she should be executed while pregnant.

       5 likes


  24. Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/jills/public_html/wp/wp-content/plugins/subscribe-to-comments/subscribe-to-comments.php on line 590
    CT says:

    Ninek,
    I have no idea what kind of logic a pro-abortion person would use.  I can never predict the twists of their minds.  Given that the law doesn’t allow the execution of pregnant women and does allow abortion, I would guess that she would have the legal right to demand an abortion first.
     
    Denise,
    “Is it really so obvious that a pregnant woman’s execution should be delayed?”
     
    Yes, it’s really so obvious.
     
     “This gives condemned women an incentive to get pregnant.”
     
    You’re kidding right? Of course you’re not.  The average death row inmate sits in prison for well over 10 years (Often double that during the appeals process). Yes, it’s a no brainer to delay the execution 9 more months if necessary.  Women are less than 2% of the death row population. Even if all 61 get pregnant on purpose to give themselves an extra 9 months, it’s clear that the innocent child should live.
     

       2 likes


  25. Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/jills/public_html/wp/wp-content/plugins/subscribe-to-comments/subscribe-to-comments.php on line 590
    ninek says:

    Thanks CT for the polite response.  I don’t often play devil’s advocate on the interwebs!

    If women did sleep with guards to get pregnant, I agree it only gives them a temporary health issue to contend with.  But, women who sleep with guards do it for all kinds of reasons (drugs, food, access to perks) just like men do while in prison.  We surely do need a lot of prison reform but it should be perhaps giving more prisoners access to mental health care and spiritual care.  You can’t just make a one-size-fits-all rule about shackles.  Some prisoners are mentally ill and don’t behave like a rational pregnant women might.  I saw one of my friend’s injuries and how long it put her out of work.  Human bites are no joke!

    (A bit of trivia- I compiled Emergency room stats on a job I had, and yes, human on human bites do outnumber dog on human bites!)     

       2 likes


  26. Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/jills/public_html/wp/wp-content/plugins/subscribe-to-comments/subscribe-to-comments.php on line 590
    DeniseNoe says:

    CT says:
    Denise,“Is it really so obvious that a pregnant woman’s execution should be delayed?” Yes, it’s really so obvious.  ”This gives condemned women an incentive to get pregnant.” You’re kidding right? Of course you’re not.  The average death row inmate sits in prison for well over 10 years (Often double that during the appeals process). Yes, it’s a no brainer to delay the execution 9 more months if necessary. >>

    (Denise) I read that way back in the 1950s, there were rumors that people might try to smuggle sperm into prison so the condemned Barbara Graham might inseminate herself and cheat the executioner for a few months.
    Often condemned women are post-menopausal but Graham was not.
    Under the old “quickening” standard, an execution could be delayed ONCE because the woman was “quick with child.” If she managed to get pregnant after having had the execution delayed, it still went on but the guards received a special punishment for allowing her to get pregnant.

    <<Women are less than 2% of the death row population.>>

    (Denise) Yes indeed. The cliché “It’s a man’s world” appears to be true if one looks UP, that is, if one looks at who gets to the top.  The matriarchal tradition is seen when we look DOWN, at who ends up at the very bottom of society: the homeless, the incarcerated, and the condemned are overwhelmingly male.  Indeed, if one controls for every possible factor such as type of killing and previous record, females are still less likely to receive the death penalty than men.  
    That we live in a “man’s world” or “patriarchy” is an easy mistake to make since people tend to look “up” and men are usually in positions of formal power. But it is still a mistake. I believe that a lot more would be done for the homeless if the majority were women.  

    <<Even if all 61 get pregnant on purpose to give themselves an extra 9 months, it’s clear that the innocent child should live.>>

    (Denise) For some it’s a moot question because they are post-menopausal.  

       0 likes


  27. Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/jills/public_html/wp/wp-content/plugins/subscribe-to-comments/subscribe-to-comments.php on line 590
    CT says:

    Ninek,
    Maybe I’m missing something but are you confusing me with someone else?  It seems like you expected me to be impolite to you.

       3 likes


  28. Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/jills/public_html/wp/wp-content/plugins/subscribe-to-comments/subscribe-to-comments.php on line 590
    Ruth says:

    You do realize that women in prison are transported–in shackles–to abortion centers if they opt for abortions.  As a sidewalk counselor I sometimes see women being brought into my local Family Planning Associates on abortion day in prison vehicles, wearing shackles.  You can’t miss these women, because they are usually wearing  orange “seg” (segregated housing [SHU] jumpsuits.  Until you’ve seen this, you have never seen a women seeking abortion where it so totally looked like she perceived no other choices; it’s sad.

       2 likes


  29. Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/jills/public_html/wp/wp-content/plugins/subscribe-to-comments/subscribe-to-comments.php on line 590
    DeniseNoe says:

    Ruth says:
    October 7, 2012 at 10:14 pm
    You do realize that women in prison are transported–in shackles–to abortion centers if they opt for abortions.  As a sidewalk counselor I sometimes see women being brought into my local Family Planning Associates on abortion day in prison vehicles, wearing shackles.  You can’t miss these women, because they are usually wearing  orange “seg” (segregated housing [SHU] jumpsuits.  Until you’ve seen this, you have never seen a women seeking abortion where it so totally looked like she perceived no other choices; it’s sad.

    (Denise) They are allowed to have babies in jail. Babies and children visit parents in prison.  

       0 likes

Comments are closed.