Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Are handcuffs included in shackling ban for pregnant jail inmates?

Last month the ACLU of Texas and the Texas Jail Project published a joint report titled "Implementation of Laws Regarding Treatment of Pregnant Women in Texas County Jails: A Review of the Shackling Ban and Pregnant Inmate Care Standards" (pdf). Says the introduction, "According to numbers reported by county jails to the Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS), 554 pregnant inmates were held in jails on June 1, 2010, when this research was conducted. Of these, 175, or slightly over 30 percent, were housed in the six largest jails. Our report therefore gives a clear picture of treatment received by nearly a third of the pregnant jail inmates in Texas and identifies problems that may be present in the other 239 facilities under the purview of TCJS."

Says the report, some jails, including Dallas, don't interpret the shackling ban to include handcuffs. Most others do, as do the groups authoring the report. (The relevant portion of the statute declares that “a municipal or county jail may not use restraints to control the movement of a pregnant woman in the custody of the jail at any time during which the woman is in labor or delivery or recovery from delivery.”)

In addition, the authors found "widely varying standards for prenatal nutrition among jails," with Harris County, for example, allotting pregnant inmates 40% fewer calories than in El Paso. An appendix to the report (pdf) includes petitions for TCJS rulemaking to establish more rigorous standards of care for pregnant Texas jail inmates.

As of July 1, according to another appendix, there were 509 pregnant women in Texas jails.


Prison Doc said...

"Common sense ain't so common," as the saying goes.

A couple of comments: the shackling ban, I think should be common sense for hospital/labor&delivery room care. I don't see why it needs to apply at the jail or during transport to the jail. Teaching jail staff to correctly diagnose labor sounds like the pipe dream of somebody who doesn't know much about it. Labor can be hard for even a professional to diagnose in its early stages. Likewise, shackling someone in active labor makes no sense either and is either inhumane or crazy, depending on one's perspective--but NEVER acceptable.

Prenatal care is a sticker wicket. It isn't that easy to come by. None of the several dozen practitioners in town will provide routine care to pregnant females. So the care isn't available beyond prenatal vitamins and a good diet. But since we love to lock everybody up in Texas, I've never been able to help anyone get bond when they're pregnant, no matter how "minor" or nonviolent the charge. (But please don't blame the sheriff or the jail--talk to the judge and DA)

So to me a lot of it comes down to our recurring problem of wanting to incarcerate folks even for low level drug and alcohol charges.

Drives me crazy.

sunray's wench said...

Only a man, or a woman who has never given birth, could think that a female inmate would be thinking about escaping at the same time as delivering a baby.

Why doesn't Texas have dedicated mother and baby units to send these women to?

DEWEY said...

"Why doesn't Texas have dedicated mother and baby units to send these women to?"
Two reasons. (1) It would cost money. (2) It might be considered humane.

Anonymous said...

SW and Dewey: it would be great to have dedicated units for pregnant women in the final trimester, like TDCJ does. But to be practical, even if there were monies available, there would have to be quite an effort of coordination, considering there are about 245 jails currently operating. Of course, it would make sense to have a pregnancy units at our 2 largest jails: Dallas & Houston. That would entail cost but it's a good idea that we should work on.
In the meantime, however, Texas Jail Project will lobby the Texas Commission on Jail Standards to take the ban on shackling a little more seriously. Under a best practices scenario, TCJS could inform sheriffs how other jails handle inmates in labor and what the shackling ban actually entails. The jail commanders in turn should be informing guards and staff. Guards have been heard to say, "I never heard of no ban," at Dallas for example.

Anonymous said...