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NCCHC and Partners Call on Feds to Address Restraint Use in Pregnancy

The National Commission on Correctional Health Care has joined the American Psychological Association and four other national organizations in calling for strict restrictions on the use of restraints on incarcerated women and adolescents during pregnancy, labor and delivery and the postpartum period.

A joint statement issued by the organizations, which represent the fields of physical and mental health, corrections, human rights and criminal justice, calls on Congress and the Department of Justice to work with state and local governments to restrict the use of restraints. The statement amplifies NCCHC’s position statement on the same subject, adopted in 2010 and reaffirmed in 2015, which states that inmates should not be restrained during labor and delivery, and that the application of restraints during all other pre- and postpartum periods should be restricted as much as possible.

The statement also echoes the recommendations in the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance report, Best Practices in the Use of Restraints with Pregnant Women and Girls Under Correctional Custody, which was developed in 2012 by a federal task force that included NCCHC.

From a medical standpoint, the use of shackles during the perinatal period can be dangerous to both mother and baby, especially during the last trimester and labor and delivery. Restraints can create a fall risk for the mother, make it difficult for health care professionals to intervene in an emergency and prevent mother–infant bonding, which is extremely important during the postpartum period.

Despite these risks, 13 states place no restrictions on the use of restraints, and in the states that do have laws or regulations regulating the practice, policies differ widely in their scope, comprehensiveness and use. The statement calls for three specific federal policies: improved data collection by the DOJ on the use of restraints in jails and prisons; training and technical assistance to ensure successful implementation of efforts to restrict the use of restraints; and continued leadership by the Bureau of Prisons to build on its existing policy restricting the use of restraints.

In addition to NCCHC and the APA (an NCCHC supporting organization), statement cosigners include the American Jail Association (also a supporting organization), the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Human Rights Project for Girls and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.