Legislature Bans MO Prisons from Shackling Pregnant Women in 3rd Trimester


Both the Missouri House and Senate have passed a bill barring the Department of Corrections or its contractors from shackling pregnant women in their third trimester other than in extreme circumstances. Now the bill heads to Governor Eric Greitens for his signature.

Senate Bill 870 would outlaw jail staff from "using restraints on a pregnant offender in her third trimester during transportation, medical appointments, labor, or forty-eight hours post delivery, unless extraordinary circumstances exist." Those circumstances include the woman being a danger to herself or others — or a flight risk. (Which, if you've ever met a woman who's eight months pregnant, seems rather unlikely.)

"We’re glad that the Missouri Legislature has finally addressed this human rights issue for women in our state,” sponsor Sen. Jamilah Nasheed (D-St. Louis) said in a prepared statement. “Women in the state’s care while pregnant will now be safer during one of the most vulnerable times in their lives.”

The ACLU of Missouri applauded the bill's passage.

“Shackling a woman during labor is unsafe, unnecessary and unconstitutional,” said ACLU of Missouri Legislative and Policy Director Sara Baker in a prepared statement. “We’re glad the Missouri Legislature prioritized protecting women in its care and urge Gov. Eric Greitens to sign this bill into law immediately.”

In the last four years, the ACLU of Missouri has twice sued the state over shackling pregnant inmates in its care — and twice won settlements. In the case of Tara Rhodes, Mississippi County jailers ignored her pleas for help, letting her suffer for five days before finally sending her to a medical facility five hours away. Hospital staff quickly realized she was in distress, but it was too late; she lost the baby.

As the ACLU points out, the new law will not cover county jails, which are often the worst offenders for outdated practices like shackling pregnant women or those in labor. The Missouri Sheriffs Association, it says, has offered "persistent opposition" to such reforms on the county level.

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at sarah.fenske@riverfronttimes.com

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