Pennsylvania Outlaws Shackling of Prisoners Giving Birth
By Daniel Denvir
The state Legislature has voted to outlaw the policy of keeping prisoners shackled while they are giving birth. Act 45 passed the General Assembly with unanimous support and goes into effect today, advocates note, “just in time for ‘Labor’ Day.”
The legislation got a boost from heightened media attention, including a story PW ran in January that profiled Tina Torres, a woman who spent 17 hours of labor shackled to a gurney.
“It’s overdue,” says Torres, who still bears scars around her ankles. “I’m very happy that no one else will have to endure something like that. And if they do, they’ll be breaking the law. It’s should go without saying, but it’s good that it’s the law.”
Torres says that she recently received a $50,000 settlement from the City of Philadelphia for her shackling at the Riverside Correctional Facility in 2008. At the time, shackling was against local policy, but permitted under state law.
The legislation was sponsored by State Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery County) and spearheaded by the Working Group to Enhance Services for Incarcerated Women, which includes organizations such as the Pennsylvania Prison Society; the ACLU of Pennsylvania; Community Legal Services; Maternity Care Coalition; Philadelphia NOW; Women’s Law Project; and the statewide Children of Incarcerated Parents’ Bill of Rights Coalition.