Tuesday, February 18 2014 (Sacramento) Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins joined advocates for pregnant women who are incarcerated in releasing a report on compliance with Atkins’ legislation prohibiting the most dangerous forms of shackling. The report states that while 21 of California’s 58 counties have fully complied with the law, the remaining counties have either not fully complied, not complied at all, or did not respond to inquiries.
“I am proud to be the author of legislation that protects both public safety and the health and welfare of pregnant prisoners and their newborns. I applaud the counties that have fully complied with this new law,” says Atkins. “Having said that, in almost two-thirds of our state’s counties, pregnant prisoners are still being put at risk. It is my hope that in the very near future that will no longer be the case.”
AB 2530 became law in January 2013. It prohibits the use of behind-the-back handcuffs, belly chains, and leg irons on pregnant prisoners. These practices endanger the health of the woman and the outcome of her pregnancy. A little more than one year later, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children (LSPC), one of the sponsors of Atkins’ 2012 legislation, contacted each county to determine the extent of compliance with the new law.
Thirty-two counties continue to have written policies that do not comply with the law, either because they permit the prohibited restraints, do not acknowledge that a woman’s doctor has authority to order the restraints removed, or do not inform prisoners of their rights. Two counties have not complied at all with the new law and three counties failed to respond to inquiries. LSPC will continue to work with state and county officials to bring all facilities into compliance.
Shackling makes pregnant women unsteady on their feet. They also make it extremely difficult to treat a woman in a medical emergency. Women in correctional facilities are more likely to experience miscarriage, pre-eclampsia, pre-term birth, and low birth weight than other pregnant women.
The Majority Leader and LSPC were also joined at the news conference by a physician representing the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, District IX, which also sponsored AB 2530, and a representative of the California Coalition for Women Prisoners.