Democratic bill hopes to end practice of shackling inmates during childbirth

Democratic bill hopes to end practice of shackling inmates during childbirth

Democratic lawmakers want to restrict the practice of shackling women prisoners they give birth. It’s a controversial issue that was taken up by a Senate committee Thursday afternoon.

Senate Bill 393 was introduced in August following a lawsuit alleging that since 2011, at least 40 women in Milwaukee had been shackled while giving birth. The Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety held a public hearing on the bill, co-authored by Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, and Rep. Lisa Subeck, D-Madison.

“I am excited that the committee with hear this important bill. Shackling women who are giving birth is cruel, dangerous and rarely necessary. I am excited for the opportunity to share how this bill can help create better health outcomes while saving taxpayer dollars through reduced health care expenditures and lawsuit avoidance,” Taylor said.

Subeck said the bill will greatly restrict when and how correctional officers may shackle women in labor, adding the practice is dangerous not only for the mother, but also for the baby.

“This practice of shackling women is absolutely unnecessary. It is dangerous. We want women to have good outcomes and we want their babies to have good outcomes as well,” Subeck said.

Supporters of the bill said opponents will likely be concerned about public safety, but that’s something Subeck and Taylor took into consideration when writing the bill. They said it still allows for shackles to be used only in the most extreme cases.

“We know that women can’t get up and flee in the middle of giving birth to a baby. We heard stories out of Milwaukee of a woman who was shackled for 21 hours while in labor. She was not a risk to herself or anyone else,” Subeck said.

The bill would also provide maternal support services and expands testing for sexually transmitted infections in correctional facilities.