The precarious foundation upon which the practice of shackling inmates in labor teeters is the idea that if they were left unrestrained they might take the opportunity to escape. This explanation not only seems to defy all logic and reality, but it is simply not supported by any facts--there have been no known escape attempts by inmates in labor (which will probably come as no surprise to anyone who has ever actually had a baby).

Casting further doubt upon the reality or sincerity of the escape justification is the fact that most women, like Nelson, are incarcerated for non-violent crimes, such as identity theft, writing bad checks, or peripheral involvement in drug-related offenses. In most states, neither the woman's crime nor consideration of whether or not she has made prior escape attempts has any bearing on whether or not she may be shackled. Finally, the presence of armed guards at the birth, and the fact that most American hospitals already have their own security systems in place calls into question the necessity of such restraints even if a woman did try to escape.