Encourages Public to Comment on Final RegulationsRichmond, VA -- The ACLU of Virginia joins a diverse coalition of faith-based organizations, women's rights advocates, and prison reform groups in applauding Governor McAuliffe's final approval of regulations limiting the use of restraints on pregnant women in local and regional jails.
"We are grateful to Governor McAuliffe for taking this step to ensure that the human dignity, safety and health of pregnant women held in Virginia's local and regional jails are protected," said Claire Gastañaga, ACLU of Virginia Executive Director.
The ACLU of Virginia and its coalition partners have worked with law enforcement over the past few years to ensure that regulations were finally put in place that would protect pregnant women in jail, while ensuring that concerns for the safety of the women, the public, correctional staff and other women in jail were addressed.
"These new regulations are a great improvement and we are thankful to all involved in making them a reality," said Aisha Huertas Michel, Patricia M. Arnold Women's Rights Project Director of the ACLU of Virginia. "Our work will not be complete, however, until legislation is passed codifying limits on the use of restraints and the Department of Corrections (DOC) and officials at local and regional jails are all required to report to the public on any use of restraints on pregnant women under their jurisdiction," Michel added.
In 2011, the ACLU of Virginia and a broad-based coalition began conversations with the DOC regarding the use of restraints of pregnant women prisoners. After productive conversations, the DOC agreed to expand its internal policy limiting the use of restraints on pregnant prisoners in state correctional facilities. Many of the reported cases of women being restrained while pregnant, however, occurred 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 their jails, during transport to outside facilities, and during labor and delivery - proposed regulations which it approved in 2012 and which were finalized in November 2013.
With the Governor's review and signature, the regulations now move to a final 30 day public comment period, beginning on April 7, with the rules scheduled to take effect on May 8, barring any last minute action to derail them.
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.
To review the new regulations and to make public comment beginning April 7, 2013, visit: http://www.townhall.virginia.gov/L/viewstage.cfm?stageid=6821
Stories about pregnant women in jail collected by the coalition can be found online at: https://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/20120207ShacklingStories.pdf