Update: LD 1013 becomes law!

Last Friday, the ACLU of Maine turned out in force for the hearing on LD 1013, An Act to Prevent the Shackling of Pregnant Prisoners.

In her testimony, ACLU of Maine Executive Director Alison Beyea urged the committee to support the bill: 

LD 1013 disallows shackling pregnant prisoners and detainees except where necessary to counter a flight risk or to preserve the safety of the prisoner, the public, or medical and correctional staff. This bill protects some of Maine’s most vulnerable women from being unnecessarily shackled when they are pregnant and in labor – a practice that not only violates a woman’s dignity - but can detrimentally affect her health and the health of her pregnancy.

In Maine, we have heard anecdotally of at least a dozen instances where pregnant women were restrained during medical appointments and even labor. This number will only go up as the number of women in Maine jails and prisons – currently the fastest growing prisoner population – continues to rise.

Alison Beyea, Executive Director, ACLU of Maine

You can read Alison's full testimony here.

We were joined in Augusta by medical professionals, public health advocates, faith groups, prisoner rights organizations, women's rights groups and university students all urging the committee to pass this crucially important bill. Perhaps the most powerful testimony though, came from a young mom and former prisoner who courageously shared her story of being shackled in a Maine jail while pregnant with her daughter. She told the committee in detail about the fear and humiliation she felt walking into a hospital in full leg shackles, how even just stepping down from the transport van without tripping was a challenge. She described in detail how even when a nurse requested the shackles be removed and advised the guard of the threat to her safety, how the guard refused. She stood before the committee and asked them to support the bill so that no other woman would have to experience what she experienced. 

No woman should be forced to put her safety and the safety of her pregnancy at risk. All women, whether they are incarcerated or not, deserve the right to a safe and healthy pregnancy. Shackling is inhumane, an affront to basic human dignity and completely unnecessary.

This is why we were so disappointed to hear corrections administrators stand in opposition to the bill, claiming that this was not an issue in Maine and that the Maine Department of Corrections (MDOC) has a policy in place so a bill is unnecessary.

We disagree. We know shackling is happening in Maine and we know that the currently policy is insufficient. In fact, this isn't the first time MDOC has said this. Back in 2010 the Women's Law Center released a report on conditions for incarcerated mothers, in which it gave Maine an F. At that time, the MDOC said the same thing: shackling isn't happening and a policy is sufficient protection for prisoners. Five years later Maine women are still being shackled.

It is time for Mainers to demand more. The health and safety of too many women and their pregnancies have been put at risk. It is time for Maine to join other New England states and the international community in banning this cruel and inhumane practice. It is time for Maine to stop shackling pregnant women.

Join us in calling for the immediate passage of LD 1013.