The state’s policy allows for restraints “only when absolutely necessary to protect the pregnant individual from self-harm, harming others, or to prevent escape,” Rick Binetti, DPSCS’s chief spokesman wrote in an e-mail, a determination that is made on a “case-by-case basis.”
“In practice this would happen most likely for an inmate during transport, and when an inmate moves around an unsecured part of a hospital,” he wrote. A hospital, Binetti said, “can circumvent” the department’s policy. “When we are on their turf, their rules are followed,” he wrote.
Advocates for the proposed law presented the judiciary committee with testimony from two former inmates who recounted being shackled while delivering babies, though both gave birth before the state enacted its policies in 2006.
In one case, Danielle Sweigert, who was seven months pregnant at a detention center in Jessup, said her leg and hand were shackled to a bed frame during delivery.
“I was kept in shackles and handcuffs throughout my actual labor,” she said in written testimony. “It was a terrible experience. The whole time I was pushing, I was worrying about the shackles and the handcuffs. I couldn’t grab onto anything.”
Rebecca Swope, also a former pregnant inmate at Jessup, said she was “strapped at my breast, midsection, upper thighs and lower legs to the stretcher” and also handcuffed at the “wrist and ankle” during her ambulance ride to the hospital.
She described the experience as “10 miles of torture.”
At the hospital, she said, her right wrist and ankle were handcuffed to the bed during a relatively short delivery that culminated with the birth of her daughter, Hannah. Swope said she relives the “traumatic” experience “on every one of my daughter’s birthdays.”