Thursday, July 8, 2010

Shackling and Tasering of Incarcerated Pregnant Women in Pennsylvania and Centre County: New Changes in State Law and County Policy

New State Law

On March 17, 2010, the Pennsylvania Senate unanimously passed SB 1074 that prohibits the shackling of pregnant women except in "extraordinary circumstances" in the second or third trimester of pregnancy and immediately postpartum.  The Pennsylvania House of Representatives then followed by unanimously passing the bill on June 29, 2010.  And Governor Rendell signed the bill into law on July 2, 2010.  This new law goes into effect statewide on August 31, 2010. 

The new law states:
1. [A] correctional institution shall not apply restraints to a prisoner or detainee known to be pregnant during any stage of labor, any pregnancy-related medical distress, any period of delivery, any period of postpartum,...or transport to a medical facility as a result of any of the preceding conditions or transport to a medical facility after the beginning of the second trimester of pregnancy.

(2) Paragraph (1) shall not bar reasonable restraint provided the correctional institution staff assigned to the prisoner or detainee makes an individualized determination that the prisoner or detainee presents a substantial risk of imminent flight or some other extraordinary medical or security circumstance dictates that the prisoner or detainee be restrained to ensure the safety and security of the prisoner or detainee, the staff of the correctional institution or medical facility, other prisoners or detainees or the public.
If an "extraordinary circumstance" occurs that results in restraint of the pregnant woman, the prison must NOT leave the inmate unattended so that these restraints can be removed immediately should the removal become "medically necessary."  It also requires that the "least restrictive" type of restraint be used should this become necessary.  And the correctional facility must then report this incidence of restraint in a report to the PA Department of Public Welfare.  County jails must include these incidences in their "County Extraordinary Occurrence Monthly Report" to the Secretary of the Department of Public Welfare.
New Centre County Policy
Meanwhile, the Centre County Prison Board has been working on this issue since January when Pennsylvania NOW called upon the Board and the Warden to compassionately use their power to not shackle a woman who went into labor two days after we received a call from the woman's mother about this situation.  The warden agreed and the woman was not shackled during her labor and delivery. 
Five days later at their monthly prison board meeting, the Prison Board agreed to add this issue to the review of their entire "Inmate Transport"  policy.  Today at 8:25 am, the Prison Board unanimously passed their revised "Inmate Transport" policy. 
The newly revised  policy, which goes into effect immediately, covers the protocol for transporting inmates incarcerated at the Centre County Correctional Center.  This policy is designed to "ensure the security and safety of inmates, officers, and the community during the course of inmate transports."  This includes how prisoners are handled when they are transported by the prison and by ambulance as well as what happens when they are take to a doctor's office or hospital.

This new policy follows the new state law and goes several steps further.  The first difference is that any pregnant woman - no matter age of gestation - is covered. The second difference is that, unlike the new state law, the Shift Commander, not the correctional officer,  makes the determination if an extraordinary situation allowing limited shackling is present and will be allowed.. Third, only handcuffs are allowed if restraint is required.  Forth, under no circumstance will a pregnant woman ever be tasered!  In fact, correctional officers are not allowed to carry a taser if the inmate is pregnant. And finally, if only one correctional officer is assigned for the transportation of the pregnant female inmate, that officer must be a woman.  If two officers are assigned, the second one can be either male or female.

Pennsylvania NOW would like to thank the General Assembly and Governor Rendell for passage of this new, compassionate law.  We also thank the Centre County Prison Board for taking the issue of tasering and shackling pregnant women seriously and creating an even stronger policy on shackling and for completely prohibiting the tasering of all pregnant women. 


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