New York made it illegal in 2009 to shackle a pregnant woman while she is going to labor, delivering a baby and recovering from childbirth, but there are still reports of women being illegally restrained with handcuffs by correctional officers in the state during those times (video below).
Maria Caraballo (pictured) told the nonprofit Correctional Association of New York in June that her hands and feet were shackled as she was loaded into a van for her medical appointment to have her labor induced in 2010.
She recalled giving birth to a baby while handcuffed to a bed, not being able to hold her baby with two hands — because she was cuffed — and remaining shackled while being stitched up in post-operative care. Other women shared similar shocking stories.
According to a study released by the association in February: "Violations of New York’s 2009 Anti-Shackling Law and routine shackling of women throughout all trimesters of pregnancy."
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The study found that 23 of 27 women "who gave birth after the law went into effect said they were shackled at least once in violation of the statute."
The shackling of pregnant women also happens in other states, and is opposed by major health organizations, including American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American College of Nurse Midwives, National Perinatal Association, American Medical Women’s Association, American Public Health Association and the American Medical Association, the study notes.
The American Civil Liberties Union calls the practice of shackling pregnant women "dangerous and inhumane." It says, "although widely regarded as an assault on human dignity as well as an unsafe medical practice, women prisoners are still routinely shackled during pregnancy and childbirth."
Tamar Kraft-Stolar, author of the study, told Mother Jones that pregnant women may be shackled due to a lack of education among prison guards who are breaking the law by shackling these inmates during labor, delivery and recovery.
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Kraft-Stolar and other reformers are pushing Assembly Bill 6430 in New York that would ban shackles on pregnant inmates during their entire pregnancy, and up to eight weeks after pregnancy. Shackling would only be allowed in special circumstances and be reported to the state.
It is not clear if correctional officers would follow this proposed law anymore than the current law.