Senator Brownsberger has received many emails similar to the one below from constituents urging him to support S1171, An Act to prevent shackling and promote safe pregnancies for female inmates. The Senator is a co-sponsor of this bill and provided written testimony to the recent hearing by the Joint Committee on Public Safety.
Senator Brownsberger: Please support the anti-shackling bill that the Joint Committee on Public Safety has just moved forward. The Committee’s bill is a new version of the legislation filed by Sen. Spilka and Rep. Khan. All women deserve a safe, healthy pregnancy and birth experience, including prenatal care, adequate nutrition, and support during labor and birth. For women in prison and jail, this includes protection from medically unsafe and demeaning restraints, such as handcuffs, leg irons, and belly chains. Shackling pregnant women is dangerous: – During the 2nd and 3rd trimesters, it increases the risk of falling and injury. – During labor and birth, it interferes with women’s ability to move and with medical professionals’ ability to care for their patients and to intervene in emergency situations. – During postpartum recovery, it undermines women’s safe care of their newborn babies. Shackling is not necessary. Trained correctional officers always guard women outside of prison and jail and provide necessary supervision and security. Women in labor are engaged in difficult, painful physical activity, in secure hospital wards, under officers’ supervision, making them low flight risks. Leading medical and public health organizations–including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, the American College of Nurse-Midwives, and the National Commission on Correctional Health Care–oppose the shackling of pregnant women, particularly during labor and childbirth. Legal and human rights organizations such as the American Bar Association and Amnesty International also oppose the practice. Even the American Correctional Association’s professional standards prohibit shackling women during labor and delivery. Federal courts have expressly condemned shackling women during labor as cruel and unusual punishment. Eighteen states, from Arizona to Vermont, have already passed laws against shackling. Massachusetts should join them. We need one consistent, safe, and humane standard for the care of pregnant women in prison and jail. This bill will ensure they receive appropriate prenatal care and ban the unsafe practice of shackling, particularly during labor and delivery and postpartum recovery. Please urge leadership to bring it to the floor for a vote as swiftly as possible.