HARRISBURG, July 6, 2010 – After unanimously passing both chambers of the state General Assembly, a bill introduced by Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Delaware/Montgomery) that bans the practice of shackling pregnant prisoners has been signed into law by Gov. Ed Rendell.

Senate Bill 1074 would for the first time create a statewide procedural policy regarding shackling while a prisoner is in transit to a medical facility for delivery or other pregnancy-related complication as well as for a reasonable period of time post-delivery. Currently, that decision occurs at the local level, which Leach said adds to unnecessary confusion about a policy that should be tightly regulated.

“This is common sense legislation that clears up an issue that should have been standardized years ago,” Leach said. “To endanger a woman and her unborn child during birth simply because she is under custody of the state is a misguided practice. I am thrilled and thankful that my colleagues in the General Assembly agreed with this position and sent the bill to the governor’s desk with haste.”

The bill would provide an exception that allows shackling if the corrections official believes there is a risk of flight or to the health and safety of medical personnel. In the event of such a risk, the bill would require the attending corrections official to report the circumstances leading to the decision to apply restraints. If the decision was made on the county level, the report must then be given to the state Department of Corrections.

S.B. 1074 would also require that the Department of Corrections provide a yearly update to the governor detailing each instance of shackling made by a county or state prison. That information would be made available for public review on the governor’s website, www.governor.state.pa.us.

The bill garnered international appeal since it was first introduced by Leach earlier this session. In January, BBC News reported on the bill and followed a Philadelphia woman who struggled through childbirth while fully restrained. The reporter also spoke to officials in the correctional field who support banning the use of shackles except under extraordinary circumstances.

In addition to this report, news organizations and interest groups across the country weighed in on the issue. In a correspondence sent by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, legislative director Andy Hoover hailed the bill’s passage and said, “This was a bipartisan effort across both the Senate and House [and] we’re grateful to these legislators for seeing the bill through the process.”

The law makes Pennsylvania the eighth state to ban shackling of inmates in childbirth, joining Texas, New Mexico, New York, California, Washington, Illinois, and Vermont.

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