Words from inside

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Several of our close friends, including The Center for Young Women's Development, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, and the ACLU of Northern California are working to stop the shackling of pregnant women inside California's prisons.

They have succeeded in passing AB568, authored by Representative Nancy Skinner through the California State Senate and Assembly.

The bill is now sitting on Governor Brown's desk, awaiting his signature.

Our allies working on the campaign put out a call for stories about what pregnant women in the system fact. This is a sampling of what they heard.
While I was pregnant, I was sent to court often. Most of the courtrooms are on the same floor as the jail so I wasn’t shackled when I went to court. But twice I was sent to a courtroom on a different floor. I was shackled around my belly and cuffed around my feet. I was eight months pregnant then. --Shante
I was incarcerated during my third trimester. When I went to a doctor’s appointment two guards escorted me. One guard shackled me around my ankles and wrists. The other guard told the guard not to shackle me that way. When I tripped and fell the guard said “I told you not to shackle her,” and they removed the shackles around me feet. Why did I need to fall before they realized that shackling my wrist and ankles when I’m 8 months pregnant was dangerous? --Deanne
I was shackled several times during transport while I was in my third trimester with the belly chain. Every time a guard would put the chain too tight I would ask for them to make it looser and they would say no just put it higher- meaning between my breast and my stomach which is still very uncomfortable. I fell twice while I was pregnant and shackled. In one incident I fell because the flip flops they gave me were size ten and I wear a size six. When I tried to get onto the bus my flip flop caused me to trip and the shackles kept me from being able to break my fall. It was painful but luckily my baby wasn’t harmed. The second time I just lost my balance and the guard grabbed me in time and kept me from hitting the floor.
I never knew what the law was about being shackled when pregnant because some guards would shackle me and some guards wouldn’t. I guess it depended on how they felt that day.

During all this I never once considered running or doing anything to hurt others or myself. I just wanted to make sure that I was safe so that my baby didn’t get hurt. Women in prison and jails are already paying their debt to society by being incarcerated and taken away from our families. There is no need to further punish us by putting our bodies and babies in danger by shackling us like animals. We deserve the right to physical safety for ourselves and our babies. I urge you to pass AB 568 so that women can be safe no matter where they are.--Andrea

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