"Maria Jones" describing how she gave birth while an inmate of Cook County Jail, Chicago, 1998.
Around the USA, it is common for restraints to be used on sick and pregnant incarcerated women when they are transported to and kept in hospital, regardless of whether they have a history of violence (which only a minority have) and regardless of whether they have ever absconded or attempted to escape (which few women have).
On 18 November, 1998, Amnesty International delegates visited Madera County Hospital in California, where female prisoners are taken when they are seriously ill or in labour and for a short period after giving birth. The ward is locked. Inside the ward are four armed guards. Yet every inmate is chained by a leg to her bed. An inmate showed the Amnesty International delegates her shackle. She could lie on her side but she could not roll over.
The New York City Department of Corrections' policy prohibits the use of restraints on pregnant inmates admitted to hospital for delivery "unless the inmate attempts to escape at the hospital or the inmate engages in violent behaviour at the hospital which presents a danger of injury."(11) However, Amnesty International has received reports that six New York City prisoners, none of whom had attempted to escape or had a history of violence, were restrained while in hospital for delivery in 1998. One woman reported that she gave birth alone in the labour room as she screamed and lay handcuffed to the bed. Another woman reported that she was shackled to the bed after the birth of her baby by caesarian section even though a doctor had requested that, because of her surgery, she be allowed to walk around. This is the report provided of how another of the women was treated:
Amnesty International considers that there is no sound reason for authorities to routinely shackle and handcuff pregnant women or women who have just given birth and who are under armed guard. The use of restraints in these circumstances is cruel and degrading. It also endangers the woman and her child, as described by physician Dr Patricia Garcia
RECOMMENDATIONS ON THE USE OF RESTRAINTS