ACLU of Virginia Calls for Public Accountability for Any Future Use of Such Restraints in Virginia JailsRichmond, VA - The ACLU of Virginia celebrates regulations that took effect today limiting the use of restraints on pregnant women in all Virginia jails. Together with a diverse coalition of faith-based, women's, and prison reform advocates, the ACLU of Virginia has been advocating for the implementation of these regulations since 2011."We commend the Board of Corrections and the McDonnell and McAuliffe administrations for supporting these common sense and necessary regulations," said Aisha Huertas Michel, Patricia M. Arnold Women's Rights Project Director of the ACLU of Virginia. "Until these regulations went into effect, pregnant inmates faced unnecessary, dangerous health risks and degrading treatment and their babies faced additional risks during labor, delivery, and postpartum recovery.
"In 2011, the ACLU of Virginia and a broad-based coalition began conversations with the Department of Corrections (DOC) regarding the use of restraints on pregnant inmates. After productive conversations, the DOC agreed to expand its internal policy limiting the use of restraints on pregnant inmates in state correctional facilities the Department oversees directly. Many of the reported cases of women being restrained while pregnant occurred, however, in local and regional jails not covered under the DOC's policy. The Board of Corrections (BOC) was then approached about amending regulations governing the operation of local and regional jails to include language limiting the use of restraints on pregnant women in all jails, during transport to outside facilities, and during labor and delivery. The BOC approved proposed regulations limiting the use of restraints in 2012 and, after a public comment period, approved the rules in final form in November 2013.
"Now that the regulations are in effect, we will work with jail officials and medical professionals in charge of prisoner care to ensure that the regulations are implemented in every facility and any instances of use of restraints are documented in detail," said Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, Executive Director of the ACLU of Virginia. "Public accountability, including documentation and reporting of any use of restraints and the justification for their use, is necessary to protect both pregnant inmates who are subject to restraint and jail officials who approve the use of restraints on these inmates."
The coalition supporting regulations restricting restraints on pregnant inmates includes: American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia; Family Foundation; Friends of Guest House; General Board of Churches & Society of the United Methodist Church; Legal Aid Justice Center; NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia; National Religious Campaign Against Torture; Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia; Justice Fellowship/Prison Fellowship Ministries; Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project; Social Action Linking Together; Virginia Council of Churches; Virginia CURE; and The Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy.