The Jury Talks Back


Lawsuit Claims NYPD Forced Woman To Give Birth While Shackled To Bed

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dana @ 12:52 pm

[guest post by Dana]

A 27-year old woman who went into labor while in police custody has filed a lawsuit against NYPD claiming that she was forced to go through her labor while in restraints:

When a woman who was 40 weeks pregnant went into labor last February inside a police holding cell in the Bronx, officers took her to a hospital. Once inside, they handcuffed her wrists to the bed and shackled her ankles.

Doctors at Montefiore Medical Center warned that the restraints were illegal in New York and posed serious risks for a woman in labor, but the officers said the department’s Patrol Guide required them to restrain her, superseding state law, according to a lawsuit filed on Thursday.

The woman, then 27, struggled for nearly an hour in excruciating labor on Feb. 8 before the officers yielded and removed some of the restraints [10 minutes before she delivered her daughter], according to the complaint filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan. She delivered the baby with her right hand still cuffed to the hospital bed.

The woman, who asked the court for anonymity, saying the experience had humiliated and traumatized her and had left her unable to tell her family, was identified only as Jane Doe in court papers.

According to ABC News:

“Against the vehement protests of medical staff, the NYPD refused to remove the shackles, compelling Ms. Doe to labor in excruciating pain and forcing doctors to examine Ms. Doe with her feet and hands bound,” the lawsuit states[.]

The report also notes that the woman claims she:

…heard doctors at the Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx “express concern” both that the baby was “in some distress” during the delivery, and that she “experienced heavy bleeding” after the delivery[.]

Police officers present were allegedly following the directive of their supervisor :

When medical staff at Montefiore informed Officer John Stalikas of the New York’s law, he responded that they were “following procedures” laid out in the Patrol Guide, according to the suit. Stalikas then called his supervisor, Sergeant John Coca, who allegedly confirmed that NYPD rules dictated the woman be restrained. These conversations are backed up by medical records, the suit claims.

Also, according to the lawsuit:

[The plaintiff] seeks damages for a violation of the woman’s civil rights and asks that the Police Department change its policies to ensure that its officers never shackle a pregnant woman in custody again. “Shackling is a dehumanizing, cruel and pointless practice that has no place in New York City in 2018,” the suit said.

Medical professionals are in agreement that the practice of using such restraints on women during labor and delivery can endanger both the mother and baby:

The woman’s complaint, which names several officers and the Police Department itself, said the shackling of Ms. Doe violated a 2015 state law that bars the use of restraints on a woman during pregnancy or delivery and during the eight-week postpartum recovery period.

Her treatment by the officers defied a consensus among professional groups like the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists that using restraints like handcuffs, shackles and belly chains on pregnant women can cause complications and may interfere with doctors’ efforts to treat them, according to the complaint.

While there are women in prison specifically because of the hideous, unspeakable things they have done to their own offspring, and that there is every reason for law enforcement to be concerned about any prisoner attempting an escape while out of their cell, and possibly harming others, the 27-year old in this case was charged with a (non-violent) misdemeanor concerning a family dispute with her ex-partner. A dispute that happened five months prior to her arrest (which took place two days before her due date) and saw her go into active labor while still in the holding cell. It is a question of how to best protect the both health and welfare of the prisoner and her soon-to-arrive baby, as well as that of law enforcement, medical professionals, and the public at large.

Geraldine Doetzer’s report, Hard Labor: The Legal Implications of Shackling Female Inmates During Pregnancy and Childbirth, which was published in the William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law, “analyzes both states’ justifications for shackling policies as well as the Constitutional and human rights arguments that have been posed by inmates and their advocates for eliminating the use of physical restraints during pregnancy and childbirth.” In part:

The shackling policies themselves hearken back to an era when convicted women were considered morally subhuman and evidence of sexual activity was especially condemned. Many jurisdictions fail to modify restraint policies to accommodate pregnancy, suggesting an indifference to the special needs of female inmates that dates back to a custodial era. Beyond the fact that shackling policies do not fully accommodate the uniquely female experiences involved with childbearing, they also fail to take into account other differences between male and female inmates that would seem to make shackling female inmates generally less necessary. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, “women are substantially more likely than men to be serving time for a drug offense and less likely to have been sentenced for a violent crime.” Female inmates also generally have shorter, less violent criminal histories than male inmates: men are twice as likely as women to be violent recidivists and more than half of male prisoners have committed two or fewer offenses, compared to two-thirds of female prisoners. Furthermore, many of the violent crimes committed by women are perpetrated against current or former partners who had sexually or physically abused them.

Based on these facts, the average woman inmate seems to represent a reduced security risk. In addition, women are typically sentenced to shorter prison terms,64 which correlates to a reduced overall risk of flight. This, combined with the reality that pregnant women – not to mention those in active labor – are physically much less able to mount an attack or escape attempt, suggests that the proffered justifications for shackling pregnant inmates are based on a correctional model that was designed for men.

Dr. Carolyn Sufrin, an OB-GYN at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine who has delivered the babies of incarcerated women was asked during an interview whether there was any rationale for shackling these women:

From a medical perspective, no. There are very clear medical risks involved, which have to do with the need of women to move about freely, both for pain control but also if there’s an emergency. Then there is the common-sense perspective: What is the risk that a woman is a threat to society or a flight risk in between painful contractions? But from the custody side, they see everything as a potential risk that she is going to run off or a risk to public safety. But that’s all laced with the punitive aspect of chains as well—there’s that subtle, “Well, look what she did to deserve this.” It speaks to the way the system is set up to view incarcerated people as less than human, and to apply the same logic to a pregnant female prisoner that they might to a male prisoner.

The bi-partisan, criminal justice reform bill known as the First Step Act, which is backed by President Trump, would ban the shackling of women at all federal facilities during pregnancy, labor and postpartum recovery.

One of the planks of the pro-life community’s argument against abortion is that when pregnancy occurs, the issue is no longer just about one life. It now involves another life. The most vulnerable and innocent of lives. Therefore, to have an abortion is to willfully take that innocent life. The pro-life community fights for that innocent life to be protected from enduring an agonizing death, and to be given the opportunity to be born as fully intact as possible. The very sanctity of life. Thus, if a pregnant inmate is shackled, especially with feet bound during her labor and delivery, that does anything but ensure that the baby is being given the optimum opportunity to be born safely, with the least amount of problems. In fact, the very practice endangers and threatens the safety of the most vulnerable among us. Given that both parties are obviously inextricably linked, if the mother is endangered, so too is her baby waiting to be born. Shouldn’t the call then be to protect all life? The treatment of the incarcerated woman during labor and delivery directly impacts whether or not her baby will be ushered safely into the world. And why should an innocent life once again be put in such jeopardy, only to face the real possibility of paying the price for that which they had no control?


A Vacation from White People

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 8:16 am

This is sad. It is a story about a group of black women who have paid to go on a vacation in Costa Rica billed as an escape from having to be around white people.

I watched the whole thing, expecting it to make me angry, but instead I was alternately interested, amused, and saddened. I was interested because there was a mixture of valid complaints (white people calling these women articulate and touching their hair) and invalid ones (assuming that all Trump supporters are racist). The amusement stemmed from a retreat in which the participants engage in yoga, meditation, eating vegan, and enjoying nature. I can just hear some comedian saying that these people are escaping from white people by doing the whitest activities possible. But, of course, such a joke is based on a stereotype of white people, and the experience of these black people shows that they too can defy the stereotype about “white” activities just as they would defy stereotypes whites might hold about them. That’s interesting too. But the sad part is seeing how willing they are to engage in stereotypes about whites, and how eager they are to retreat from whites, even as they smash other stereotypes.

Obviously, I think such retreats are a bad idea. But it’s more complicated and subtle — and sad — than simply taking a position “what if white people did this?” That’s the easy (and somewhat lazy) reaction. The harder reaction is to take these folks seriously, and yet not to give in to their stereotyping. To refuse to stereotype them, but forgive them for stereotyping us, and try to understand why they do.

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