1. A Widespread Practice

Despite its plainly shaky logic and the condemnations of the American Medical Association, the practice of shackling inmates in labor remains widespread, and few states have taken affirmative steps to end or even mitigate it. According to a recent report by Amnesty International, thirty-eight state departments of corrections and the Federal Bureau of Prisons may use restraints on pregnant women in the third trimester, and twenty-three allow shackling during labor itself. Eight state departments of correction have no written policy governing the use of restraints on pregnant women, and only Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York, and Washington State have legislation regulating the use of restraints on pregnant women.

In fact, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently vetoed a bill proposing to prohibit inmates and wards of these facilities who are known to be pregnant from being shackled by the wrists, ankles, or both during any transport, during labor, during delivery, and while in recovery after giving birth, unless deemed necessary for the safety and security of the inmate or ward, the staff, and the public. Governor Schwarzenegger explained his veto by saying that [Correction Standards Authority's] mission is to regulate and develop standards for correctional facilities, not establish policies on transportation issues to and from other locations.

2. Permitted Restraints

Permitted restraints vary by state. During transportation to the hospital to deliver, Kansas and North Carolina allow the use of belly chains and leg irons. Ohio reportedly uses belly chains and leg irons until the third trimester, after which handcuffs are used instead of leg irons. Idaho, Nebraska, and Oklahoma use either belly chains or belts and handcuffs. Women in Louisiana may be restrained with leg irons, while in Nevada, normally only wrist restraints are used. In Alabama, restraints depend on the security class of the woman, but typically two extremities are restrained. In Arkansas, women with lesser disciplinary records will have one arm and one leg restrained with nylon soft restraints. In New Hampshire, one foot may be shackled to the bed during labor depending on the security class of the woman in labor.