Friday, February 19, 2010

NOW Actions on Shackling in RI and AZ

Yesterday, I sent out an email to the National NOW Presidents' listserv to let them know that the PA Department of Corrections had sent us most of their policy on shackling of pregnant women that we had requested. 

I later received emails from Rhode Island and Arizona on what's happening there.  Here's the text from those emails:

----- ARIZONA -----
Congratulations....Our state dept. of corrections has a policy against shackling. However, we in Phoenix have "The world's toughest sherriff (Joe Arpaio)" and the Maricopa County jail, which houses a very large population of undocumented immigrants who statutorily cannot be released on bail, routinely shackles pregnant prisoners during labor and delivery.

Eric Ehst
Arizona NOW

----- RHODE ISLAND -----

Congratulations to you and all of PA NOW! You're an inspiration for the work we're doing in this area in RI.

Laura Costa
RI NOW (Vice President)
Rhode Island is working on this issue as well. We filed a law suit with the ACLU and have only received redacted info from the Department of Corrections so far. We're also pushing legislation on this issue, so it'd be great to be in touch on this, and we'd love to see your materials.
Carolyn Mark
RI NOW (President)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Victory: PA Department of Corrections Releases Shackling Policy

On January 12th, Pennsylvania NOW, Inc. submitted a Right to Know request to the PA Department of Correcetion for a copy of their written policy on shackling pregnant women. On January 20th they sent back an email refusing to release this information. So with the help of the Pennsylvania ACLU, we filled an appeal to Pennslyvania's Right to Know Office.

Here's our argument for releasing this information:

Pennsylvania NOW’s request does not seek details of the use of restraints that could in any way compromise personal safety or institutional security. Based on our research into the use of restraints on pregnant women, Pennsylvania NOW challenges the DOC's claim that any aspect of this policy could be considered "confidential" or secret information that if disclosed could result in a threat to public safety or harm to an individual. I have received full, unredacted copies of the restraint policies used by both the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the Centre County Correctional Facility here in Centre County PA. In addition, six states—California, Illinois, New Mexico, New York, Texas, and Vermont—have laws on the books open to the public. Whether release of the policy has been by regulation, internal policy, or public law, in no case has there been any apparent loss of security or increase in risk to anyone's safety.
Today, the Department of Corrections reversed their initial refusal and sent us a redacted copy of their restraint policy.


What appears to be missing from this DOC policy from my initial read is a requirement to provide written documentation whenever a pregnant woman is restrained under one of the exceptions to the ban. This should change if the current proposed bill (SB 1074), introduced by Senator Daylin Leach, becomes law.  SB1074 was unanimously passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 26, 2010 and is now waiting for a floor vote in the Senate before moving to the PA House of Representatives.

If your NOW chapter wants to work on this issue, let me know and I'll send you all the materials I have in addition to the talking points that Dee Johnson of Philadelphia NOW and the Pennsylvania Prison Society sent out to the PA NOW leadership yesterday. This would include:

1. The Federal Bureau of Prison policy
2. The PA Dept of Corrections policy
3. The Centre County Prison Board policy (that is being rewritten to ban this procedure; the current copy I have still allows it, even though verbally they have already agreed to stop this action against women)
4. Amnesty International's statement on shackling.
5. The American College of OB/GYN's letter opposing the shackling of pregnant women
6. National Advocates for Pregnant Women's press release on the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals decision
7. Copy of the proposed state law (SB 1074)
8. Copy of the complaint currently before the US District Court of Western Washington on this issue (Brawley v State of Washington, Washington Department of Corrections, et al).
9. Copy of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals decision on the Nelson v Correctional Medical Services on shackling pregnant women that states, "The Eighth Amendment prohibits "cruel and unusual punishments," U.S.Const. amend. VIII, and well before September 20, 2003 the Supreme Court and the lower federal courts had concluded that the Amendment forbids actions like those taken by Turensky in shackling Nelson."