Sheriff's deputies are shackling some female inmates to the bed during childbirth at Magee-Womens Hospital, officials there said, and the practice has prompted an outcry from advocacy groups.
Sheriff Pete DeFazio said he had no knowledge of any shackling during labor. "That's crazy. It's hard for me to believe. To tell you the truth, I don't believe it."
But Trish Nelson, the hospital's unit director for labor and delivery, said of the 15 to 20 inmates from Allegheny County Jail who give birth every year, about half are restrained by one wrist to the sideboard of the bed by a deputy.
Witold J. Walczak, legal director of the Pittsburgh ACLU, which decries the shackling of women in labor, said many of the women in the county jail are awaiting trial, and don't pose a flight risk. "Most of them are not convicted of anything," he said. Why should they have tighter security than women sentenced to state prisons in various states across the country, he asked.
But the procedural manual in the sheriff's office stipulates that any prisoner admitted to the hospital or medical facility must be shackled by leg restraints.
"There are NO EXCEPTIONS to this rule," the manual says.
Sheriff DeFazio lashed out:
"You have to use your brain," Sheriff DeFazio said. "If you don't have a brain, you shouldn't have the job to begin with. You have to use common sense. These people want to be spoon fed. Even a lay person would know why you wouldn't shackle someone in labor. Where is she going to go? If someone is going to escape, she is going to do more injury to the fetus and herself than anyone else. It's crazy. "They are trying to say, 'That is the rule. We have to do it.' But that is stupid. ... They just want to shackle them so they don't have to worry about it, so they can sneak out and have a cigarette."
Hee hee, I like this guy!
Quotes are from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette articles:
Shackling of inmates during childbirth protested
Sheriff bans shackling of inmates during childbirth