April 20, 2006

Pittsburgh Inmates Shackled During Childbirth (and it's all according to the manual)

According to yesterday's Post-Gazette:
Sheriff's deputies are shackling some female inmates to the bed during childbirth at Magee-Womens Hospital, officials there said, and the practice has prompted an outcry from advocacy groups.

Sheriff Pete DeFazio said he had no knowledge of any shackling during labor. "That's crazy. It's hard for me to believe. To tell you the truth, I don't believe it."
However, Magee's director for labor and delivery, Trish Nelson, has stated that about half of the inmates from Allegheny County Jail who gave birth last year were "restrained by one wrist to the sideboard of the bed by a deputy."

Think about that for one second.

Now ask yourself how much of a flight risk is a woman who is in the process of giving birth?

The article says that if the restraint starts to impede the delivery that a doctor or nurse will ask the deputy to remove it. Nelson said that they "usually comply."

Jesus! You mean to tell me that there are times when they don't comply?

The state of Pennsylvania does have polices which restrict restraints during child birth but that policy only governs state prisoners.

Witold J. Walczak, legal director of the Pittsburgh ACLU, points out that many women in county jail haven't even been convicted of a crime and are awaiting trial.

The article stated that DeFazio is looking into the allegations and today's P-G has those results. First what the offical manual says and then what DeFazio now says:
"Any prisoner admitted to a hospital or medical facility as a patient shall be, at minimum, shackled to the bed with leg irons AT ALL TIMES. If the prisoner is unable to be shackled with leg irons due to a medical condition, the deputy will handcuff the prisoner to the bed. If the prisoner is unable to be shackled with leg iron or handcuffs due to broken arms and legs, then the prisoner shall be secured with a waist belt or waist chain locked firmly to the hospital bed. There are NO EXCEPTIONS to this rule."


Sheriff DeFazio said yesterday he had halted the shackling practice, but he would not punish anyone who had shackled women during childbirth. He said the male deputies, not the female ones, were more likely to have restrained women during labor. [Well, duh!]
According to today's article, County Chief Executive Dan Onorato had not heard of the policy and is glad that the sheriff is looking into the issue.

So I ask, what's it going to take for someone to change that manual? A manual that all sheriff's must sign a waiver saying that they have received.

What's it going to take for someone to make Allegheny County's policy OFFICIALLY match state policy on this issue?


Anonymous said...

Wow. I heard about this practice when it broke a while ago. I live here in the Burgh and I NEVER thought that it would be a local issue. Not because PGH is so terribly enlightened, just that this is SO fucking inhumane it seems incredulous. Just like, thankfully, the responses given by our Sheriff and any other Pol given this info. (Any reason to doubt them? Is this just an "oooh, I got egg on my face", or do they really have a problem with the practice?

BTW, you're "absolut corruption" ad was one of the best things I've ever seen. I have to go listen to "The Decider (koo-koo-ka-choo) again just thinking about it. :-)

Maria said...

The funny thing is that defazio says that he never heard of such a thing, but then the next day it's revealed that it's p[olicy in the official manual.

Thanks about the absolut corruption ad! :-)

I keep meaning to post a link to "I'm the Decider (Koo-koo-ka-choo)" -- will have to do that today. It's on my desktop now. LOL