Bill to ban shackling of pregnant women advances in Maine Legislature

Posted April 24, 2015, at 2:07 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A measure to ban the shackling of incarcerated pregnant women won the approval of the Legislature’s Criminal Justice Committee on Friday.

The bill, LD 1013, would allow for the shackling of pregnant women in Maine’s jails and prisons only in extraordinary circumstances, and would require documentation whenever restraints are used.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Anne Haskell, D-Portland, said that shackling increases a woman’s chances of falling, down which can be dangerous for the mother and her fetus.

“Nowhere in the state of Maine should we be shackling pregnant woman, whether they are incarcerated or not,” she said.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, Maine is the only state in New England with no laws banning or limiting the practice of shackling pregnant women. Medical professionals, civil rights groups and advocates for women testified in favor of the legislation.

The Department of Corrections, however, opposed it, saying the state already had rules prohibiting the shackling of women in labor, delivery or postpartum recovery. The department also argued that its officials should be allowed to make individual decisions about shackling depending on how dangerous they perceive the particular inmate to be.

In a 7-to-4 vote, the committee gave the bill an “ought to pass” recommendation, sending it along to the full Senate for further votes.

Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.

 

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