Pregnant inmates in New York prisons will no longer have to endure shackles.
Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) signed a bill Tuesday prohibiting the practice of shackling (handcuffing, using ankle restraints and waist chains) on incarcerated women who are pregnant.
Before the ban was instated, New York law already disallowed the use of shackles on female inmates during and immediately after labor, but the new rule will cover a woman during her entire pregnancy and an additional eight weeks after delivery.
“This legislation will help expectant mothers get access to essential pre-natal care and help build a stronger and healthier New York,” Governor Cuomo said in a press release, thanking the bill sponsors and declaring it a triumph for “future generations of New Yorkers.”
Cuomo’s recent extension of the ban, effective immediately, is unique to New York. No other state currently has such a progressive policy.
“Today, the State of New York took a step as a national leader to recognize the importance of ensuring health coverage during pregnancy,” Kelli Owens, Vice President of External Affairs, Family Planning Advocates of N.Y. said. “This new law will ensure that vital pre-natal care and other health needs can be met during pregnancy which will lead to better maternal and infant health, which is smart public policy.”
“Every woman should have access to adequate healthcare during pregnancy, and that’s why I pushed hard for this common-sense legislation,” State Senator Liz Krueger (D) said.
The bill also prohibits correctional officers from being in the room while an inmate is in labor, unless the woman specifically requests otherwise.
Wednesday's decision was welcomed as a much-needed reform. Just earlier this month, New York's Correctional Association released a report detailing widespread violations of the former anti-shackling bill. Today, the CA "roundly applauded" Governor Cuomo for signing the 2015 Anti-Shackling Bill.
Back in 2010, one year after New York passed its first ant-shackling bill, The American Medical Association (AMA) adopted a resolution to ban shackling nationwide. At the time only seven states had implemented anti-shackling laws.
Miyoshi Benton, a former inmate who has spoken publicly about her experience of being shackled, is now an advocate for incarcerated mothers. “The signing of this bill is very significant for me and women like me," Benton said Wednesday. "This bill protects the women and babies who cannot speak for themselves."
Bridgette Gibbs, a student who described her time as a pregnant inmate in a recently released video entitled, “It’s Time for New York To End Shackling,” was thrilled with the landmark decision. “I am grateful to have been a part of the movement to end this barbaric practice. No one should have to endure what I did.”
Watch the video below:
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