NLG and others claim a victory against shackling of pregnant incarcerated women!

House of Representatives Passes the Anti-Shackling Bill

After decades of advocacy, anti-shackling bill moves one step closer to becoming law


Boston, MA –Less than a week after their colleagues in the State Senate passed the Anti-Shackling Bill (S.2063), the Massachusetts House of Representatives also passed the Anti-Shackling bill to prohibit the practice of shackling pregnant women in jails and prisons and establish standards for prenatal and postpartum care.


“We are grateful to Speaker DeLeo, Chairman Dempsey, Chairman Naughton, Chairwoman Khan, and their colleagues in the House of Representatives for making this bill and the safety of pregnant women a priority,” said Megan Amundson, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts. “As of today, both the House and the Senate have taken a stand that shackling pregnant women is barbaric and unacceptable in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. We are hopeful that this bill will move quickly to the Governor’s desk for his signature so that we can ensure the safe and humane treatment of all pregnant women in the Commonwealth.”


Last week, the State Senate unanimously passed the Anti-Shackling Bill, a bill originally filed by State Senator Karen Spilka (D-Framingham) and Representative Kay Khan (D-Newton). In February, the Joint Committee on Public Safety, chaired by Senator James Timilty (D-Walpole) and Representative Hank Naughton (D-Clinton), made this bill a priority and released it from committee for the first time in almost a decade. That same week,  Governor Deval Patrick urged the legislature to put a bill on his desk by the end of the legislative session. Patrick  then filed 90-day emergency regulations to immediately prohibit the practice of shackling pregnant women as a stopgap measure until the legislature passed a bill.


“I was handcuffed by both my wrist and my ankle to the hospital stretcher for over eighteen hours while I was in labor,” said Michelle Collette, a former prisoner at MCI-Framingham. “I was in a secure hospital room with two guards, one of them armed, and they kept me handcuffed to the bed almost the entire time. I hope that by telling my story, I’m able to make a difference for all of the pregnant women who are now in Massachusetts’ jails and prisons, and the thousands of women who will come after them. ”


Marianne Bullock is the founder of the Prison Birth Project, and says that Michelle’s experience is not unusual. “My clients are brought to the hospital in handcuffs, in the back of a police car, with hard metal seats and no seat belt – more often than not in the throes of active labor. They undergo vaginal exams in labor with a leg or wrist shackled to the bed only to be unrestrained when they are cleared by medical staff to go to the delivery room.”


“This issue hits people at a gut level,” said Gavi Wolfe, Legislative Counsel at the ACLU of Massachusetts. “Everyone agrees shackling pregnant women is barbaric, and with the House’s leadership we’re one step closer to ending it once and for all.  We owe a debt of gratitude to Rep. Khan for championing safe and healthy care for women in prison for more than a decade, long before it was ‘cool.’”


The Massachusetts Anti-Shackling Coalition, made up of formerly incarcerated women, medical practitioners, legal and human rights organizations, women’s groups, and faith leaders, is urging the Massachusetts legislature to create a uniform law that would prohibit the shackling of pregnant women, during childbirth, and during post-delivery recuperation. The bill would also require certain medical standards for prenatal and postpartum care.


“Without clear laws, the fate of pregnant incarcerated women lies in the hands of correctional officers, and is confusing for healthcare providers,” said Urszula Masny-Latos, executive director of the Massachusetts chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. “Massachusetts’ physicians often struggle between following Department of Health guidelines or following inconsistent internal policies relayed by correctional officers. Often times, pregnant women depend on their physicians to advocate on their behalf to demand that correctional officers remove their shackles.”


The coalition applauds the leadership of State Representative Kay Khan  (D-Newton) and Representative Hank Naughton (D-Clinton) for championing the bills in the State House.


“I am incredibly proud that the House has passed this “anti-shackling” bill and that we are on the path to ensuring this dangerous and unnecessary practice will be eliminated in the Commonwealth. By establishing one uniform standard that protects the health of all pregnant and post-partum incarcerated women, we can reduce physical and psychological traumas in both mothers and children by providing all pregnant women  with the appropriate medical treatment throughout the pregnancy, during delivery and in post-partum follow-up care,” said Representative Kay Khan.


“I was proud to work with my colleagues and the passionate advocates on supporting and passing this important legislation,” said Representative Hank Naughton, House Chair of the Public Safety Committee. “In our society, in whatever circumstance, it is incredibly important to observe and protect the health, safety and dignity of all women. As with so many other issues. I have tremendous faith that our hardworking Massachusetts Corrections professionals can continue to lead the nation and world in rehabilitative and restorative justice, while providing dignity and protection for incarcerated women.”


Members of the Massachusetts Anti-Shackling Coalition Include: 

ACLU of Massachusetts, American Friends Service Committee of Western MA, Black and Pink,

Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, Boston Feminists for Liberation, Casa Myrna, Civil Liberties and Public Policy,

Coalition for Effective Public Safety, Dismas House—Worcester, Families for Justice as Healing,

Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project, Health Care for All, Health Law Advocates, Hollaback! Boston,

Jane Doe Inc—the MA Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence,

Jewish Alliance on Law and Social Action, JRI Health, The Law Offices of Howard Friedman,

The Massachusetts Chapter of the National Organization for Women,

Mount Holyoke Students Against Mass Incarceration, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts,

National Lawyers Guild, Massachusetts Chapter, Out Now—Springfield,

Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, Pretrial Working Group, Prison Birth Project,

Prisoners’ Assistance Project at NUSL, Prisoners’ Legal Services, Prison Policy Initiative,

Real Cost of Prisons Project, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Stern, Shapiro, Weissberg and Garin, LLP, And Still We Rise, Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry, The Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts, Worcester Homeless Action Committee

# # #

Find it!

National Lawyers Guild - Login
14 Beacon St. Suite 407 - Boston, MA 02108
Phone: 617-227-7335 Fax: 617-227-5495