Female Prisoners Have Rights, Too

The fact that a woman is incarcerated and serving time for a crime she committed does not deprive her of other basic rights like access to medical care, even more so if she is pregnant.

Unfortunately, reports indicate that many of those inmates are confined in risk situations because they receive poor or little assistance during pregnancy.

The situation is complicated at the time of labor: there are still reports of cases where inmates are forced to give birth while shackled to a bed.

According to the Correctional Association of New York’s Women in Prison Project, between 2009 and 2013 at least 23 female prisoners were shackled before, during and after labor, even though a state law prohibits this kind of procedure.

“They did not remove my handcuffs. I couldn’t even hold my baby. I don’t know if I they thought I was going to escape in those conditions.” That was the testimony of María, a Latina who was imprisoned in the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in 2010.

Seeking to prevent the continued violation of the inmates’ rights, Senator Charles Schumer presented this week the legislative proposal Human Rights for Girls Act.

The federal initiative seeks to abolish once and for all the shackling of female inmates before, during and after labor.

It is estimated that every year an average of 2,000 women give birth in the nation’s prisons. Gynecology experts say that bringing a child to the world in such traumatic conditions puts at risk the physical and mental well-being of the mother.

Let’s not forget that we are talking about human beings giving birth. It is a sublime moment. It is high time to put a stop to this kind of human rights violation.