By Karen Shain, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children
After three years and countless petitions, letters, phone calls, votes,
revotes, and two vetoes, Governor Brown has signed AB 2530, a bill that
bans the most egregious forms of shackling of pregnant women in
California’s state prisons, juvenile detention facilities and county
last! We have an answer for the pregnant women who write to Legal
Services for Prisoners with Children (LSPC) about having to wear chains
around their bellies while going to court, about being shackled around
their ankles while waiting to see a doctor, about standing in countless
lines waiting to get on countless buses while handcuffed behind their
backs: you are right. This is illegal. You should not be restrained in
these ways if you are incarcerated in California.
can’t wait to visit pregnant women at California Institution for Women
(CIW) or one of our 58 county jails. We can rejoice together that this
long, long battle has been won!
coalition conference calls are going to change. No longer will we be
talking about designing the next petition or support letter or
legislative alert. No more legislative visits, searching for an author,
co-author, supporter. No more tracking down potential opposition to make
sure they are still neutral or (hopefully) in support of our bill.
is clearly a time for celebration! And because the work took so long,
there are so many of us who get to celebrate. The thousands of letter
writers, hundreds of organizational supporters, dozens of organizational
sponsors—we did it! Assembly Members Nancy Skinner, Toni Atkins, Holly
Mitchell—you stepped up at the right time and we will always remember
then, after all the celebrating, after all the thank you notes, after
the tears of joy and slaps on our collective backs…then we have to get
I have learned one really important lesson over the past decade that I
have been doing legislative policy work—a good bill is only as good as
its implementation. It took over five years for California’s counties to
begin writing policies to conform to state law banning shackling of
women during labor, delivery and recovery (see LSPC’s report, Stop Shackling). We must not allow county sheriffs, juvenile probation officers or
state prison officials to wait five more years before shackling becomes
only a memory in our state.
of January 1, 2013, this is what the new law will be: NO PREGNANT WOMAN
in California’s prisons, youth authority, county jails or juvenile
detention facilities can be shackled around the belly, around the ankles
or handcuffed behind the back DURING THEIR ENTIRE PREGNANCY. And once a
woman is in labor, delivery or recovery…OR IF A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL
ORDERS IT…they cannot be restrained at all, provided that there is not a
pressing security issue.
our office, we are starting right now to find out what pregnant women
who are jailed in California are facing. Come January, when the new law
goes into effect, we will begin the work of implementation. And we need
the help of every incarcerated pregnant woman in our state as well as
every family member…you are the ones who know what is happening. We ask
everyone who is released from a woman’s prison or jail to let us know
if you witness violations of the new law.
took a lot of people to get this legislation passed. It will take at
least as many to get it implemented. Let us not lose a minute. It’s
now in all our hands to STOP SHACKLING PREGNANT WOMEN!
Please email me at email@example.com if you hear of or see any violations to the new law.