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Judge Rules Against Shackling Pregnant Women

Judge Rules Against Shackling Pregnant Women

Last week, a federal district court ruled that a Nashville woman’s rights were violated when she was shackled during childbirth while in custody of the sheriff’s office.  In 2008, Juana Villegas was arrested for careless driving and driving without vehicle registration; she also lacked a driver’s license.  Nine months pregnant, she was kept in custody when a check of her immigration status revealed that there was an existing order for deportation to Mexico.  She gave birth a few days after she arrested.

Villegas’ legs were shackled together in the ambulance.  When she got to the hospital, Rachel Roth reports in a piece for RHRealityCheck,

“Villegas was shackled at both hands and feet, or by one ankle, or not at all, depending on the officer on duty and whether she was obviously giving birth. The medical staff requested that she not be restrained at all, warning in particular of the possibility of blood clots from the use of leg irons. After she had the baby, Villegas was restrained by both legs whenever she got out of the hospital bed to go to the bathroom.”

Medical staff had asked officers to unshackled Villegas, and they refused.  Even more callously, officers would not allow Villegas to bring the breast pump the nurse gave her back to jail, citing “safety concerns,” and Villegas subsequently developed mastitis.  She was separated from her newborn son for two days after giving birth.

The sheriff’s office said that the danger of “illegal immigrants fleeing and engaging in illegal activities” justified the shackling.  But U.S. District Court Judge William Haynes Jr. ruled that because Villegas was “neither a risk of flight nor a danger to anyone,” shackling her during childbirth and post-partum recovery violated her civil rights.  Villegas will be awarded monetary damages in compensations for the violation.

This is a promising ruling for the many women who are shackled during childbirth in the U.S. prison system.  As Roth points out, “monetary damage awards can be a powerful incentive to other jails and prisons to reconsider their policies.”  Given the fact that the prison system seems to be doing a terrible job of providing services for pregnant women, an extremely vulnerable population, anything that would incentivize prisons to reform their procedures is a good step foward.

 

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122 comments

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10:10PM PDT on May 9, 2011

Poor woman. This is so unjust.

8:46PM PDT on May 9, 2011

Mary B: And don't refer to "our ancestors" when you know nothing of my ancestry. It is just as racist to make assumptions about whites based on their skin color as it is to make them about anyone else. I have no guilt about being white and I am very proud of my ancestors who have always worked AND obeyed the law and made something of themselves as a result. If you are ashamed of your heritage, that is YOUR problem.

8:40PM PDT on May 9, 2011

Mary B: Wow--you have a lot of nerve. I have what I have because I worked for it, as did my parents and grandparents before me. And they worked and sacrified so I could have a better life, not so some Mexican could have a better life at my expense. If you want to hold people accountable for the acts of their ancestors, why don't you hold that belief for all people and insist on deporting the baby in the article along with his criminal mother?? Of course not--you have to play the guilt-ridden white person role. Well, do it on your dime, hypocrite, not on mine because I have no responsibility for or obligation to the woman in the article, and neither does any other white person.

7:56PM PDT on May 9, 2011

Kathy, I have already explained it to you, but you reject it outright, or just don't understand.And YOU are the one who is saying you're responsible but the perpetrator is not. I'm not making that assumption. The least bit of thought should tell you that we all come into circumstances that were in motion long before we got here.She made her decisions based on what ever desperate situation would compell a very pregnant woman to leave her home and risk everything for a better life. You make yours from the view of an educated, privledged white woman who only has what you have because our ancesters drove hers out. You at least owe her the respect of acknowleging that, and stop sancioning such deplorable treatment by cops.No body says you have to like Latinos or their culture, but you don't get to bully them useing cops whose wages we all contribute to. I am tired of talking to you.You are repeating the same thing people of your mind set always say.And you haven't shown any ability or willingness to take in anything you can't twist to fit your already distorted views. So live with it.

7:03PM PDT on May 8, 2011

Mary B: why don't you explain to me what MY part of the responsibility is then?? I would love to hear how I am responsible when the perpetrator, according to YOU, is not.

5:41PM PDT on May 8, 2011

Kathy you have not understood anything I have said. Giving people enough money to live on is not a handout, I am not advocating a socialist government,I have never implied that I would give priority to law breakers over those who fallow laws. Those are YOUR stupid notions, and you don't know what my methods are because you've never even heard of them. What you're calling 'my' methods are the the opposit of your methods.
But, go ahead, keep argueing for your limitations and they are yours. You'll never notice a thing because you can't tell the difference between enforced work by others to survive, and work for the pleasure and usefulness of it to your family and community, nor can you tell the difference between Laws to prevent abuse of others and laws as an excuse to abuse others. So save your breath. Nothing you're capable of saying has any validity to me at all.

12:19PM PDT on May 8, 2011

Mary B: Wanting a better life doesn't justify any other crime, so it should not justify illegal immigration. The US, like every other country, has a right to have and enforce immigration laws. Everyone in the world cannot fit into the US. Why you would choose to give priority to the lawbreaks above those who follow the law is completely beyond me. As for giving people money to live on--yes, there is somethiing very wrong with takiing money I have earned through my own hard work and the education I paid for and giving it to someone else because they have less. If you want to live in a socialist country, feel free to move to one. America was based on a work ethic, not a handout ethic. As I said, your method has led to more people on welfare because people like you tell them they have a right to the fruits of the labor of others. Well, work a second job and turn all your money over to an illegal immigrant mother who doesn't want to work. But I, and most Americans, are tired of having our money taken and given to someone who has not earned it and to whom we owe nothing.

10:52AM PDT on May 8, 2011

Kathy, all you've seen in the last 20 years is the opposit end of the slideing scale you're on, and of course it doesn't work because it's based on the idea of trying to make everybody conform. You want to do it thru punishment, the other end uses reward.To get to the next level of understanding you must release your current ideas.That woman came to the land of her ancesters to have a better life for herself and her child. YOU are the ones who made that a criminal offense and then use it as an excuse to arrest and punish. If you aren't willing to accept your part of the responsibility here, the chances are 0 that you'll ever make it up the scale to where you at least have a chance to jump to the next level where you will start learning about co-operation as a unifying factor, instead of conformity to more and more rules.
So why do you keep chooseing to think that your group is the only one paying taxes? That is obviously so untrue that it makes you sound like an idiot.And hasn't it ever occured to you that there is nothing wrong with people being given enough money to live on. The problem is that it is presently coming from other tax payers instead of the money managers who print our currency. If she had been supplied with a livable income, she probably would have stayed home.Don't you know that there are people all over the world working at this next level who have solutions waiting to be tryed.You have to take responsibility to finding your own way to this level.

10:43PM PDT on May 7, 2011

Mary B: I have seen enough of your way in the last 20 years to know that's not working. Failing to hold people accountable has gotten us to a point where we have more people on welfare (intentionally) than ever before. If you want to keep paying for them, put your money where your mouth is. I have paid enough. It's time to make people understand they are accountable for their own actions and when they make bad choices they have to live with them. It's amazing what people can accomplish when you don't stand there and tell them it isn't their fault--they were discriminated against for whatever reason. That's why we make sure none of our kids lose--we all get a trophy. Well, I would WANT my kid to lose. I would want him to understand he can do better or, if he can't, he needs to fiind where he can excel. But other countries do that while America falls farther and farther behind. I hope the woman in this article learned a lesson, but I doubt it because there are too many people telling her she bears no responsibility whatsoever for her actions. Well, yes, she does.

9:11PM PDT on May 7, 2011

Wtf.

Oh sure shackle the pregnant woman, if you dont, she might unhinge her baby bump and attack you with it. What is your deal? Aren't handcuffs more than enough?


At least for the crime it should be. If she was a trained killer maybe shackles would be necessary but Jesus Christ...shackles. REALLY?

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