The First Step Act Set to Unshackle Women in the Prison System

January 30, 2019 by Maria Volkova
The First Step Act Set to Unshackle Women in the Prison System
President Donald Trump hands off a pen after he signed the First Step Act and the Juvenile Justice Reform Act in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Friday, Dec. 21, 2018. (Oliver Contreras/Sipa USA/TNS)

A number of provisions in the First Step Act, signed into law by President Trump last month, are going to make the lives of federally incarcerated females a little less burdensome.

The bill, which passed through the U.S. House of Representatives 358-36 and U.S. Senate 87-12, will officially outlaw restraining pregnant inmates for the duration of their pregnancy, during labor, and postpartum.

Restraints in the legislation are defined as “any physical or mechanical device used to control the movement of a prisoner’s body, limbs, or both”. Some examples would be- restraints around the ankles, legs, or waist of a prisoner; restraints placed on prisoner’s hands, four-point restraints, and attaching a prisoner to another prisoner.

According to the bill, the moment that a woman is declared pregnant by a healthcare professional, restraints must not be used. Inmates, who have given birth, have a 12-week period or longer, as determined by a healthcare professional, for the policy to stay in effect and for the shackles to stay off.

Historically, inmates have been restrained for being potential flight-risks, or presenting a risk to themselves or others. And while it may be effective in other cases, shackling pregnant women presents risks both for the baby and mother.

Shackling both legs and arms could result in a pregnant inmate falling and damaging the fetus. Also, there have been multiple cases of female inmates being physically harmed during childbirth on account of restraints not allowing for natural movement.

Another provision included in the bill is the requirement for federal facilities to provide feminine hygiene products to inmates for free. Until recently, many prisons required women to purchase sanitary pads and tampons.  Alongside of that, hygiene products will now be provided “in a quantity that is appropriate to the healthcare needs of each prisoner.” This changes the status quo where female prisoners were allotted a specific number of feminine hygiene products per month and nothing more.

A final provision impacting the welfare of female inmates is the requirement for those incarcerated in federal facilities to be placed within 500 miles of their close relatives. This lessens the burden for mothers who go months and even years without seeing their children on account of the prisons not being in close proximity.

It is important to stress that this bill does not impact state and local prisons. The bill only affects the conditions of inmates who are incarcerated in federal prisons and under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Marshals Service.

On a state-by-state basis, 28 states out of 50 do not have legislation preventing the restraining of women.  So hypothetically speaking, the practice of shackling can continue at the state and local levels.

A+
a-

In The News

Health

Voting

Health

It’s Not Your Imagination. Men Really Do Eat More Meat Than Women, Study Says

CHICAGO (AP) — Vacationing in Chicago this week from Europe, Jelle den Burger and Nirusa Naguleswaran grabbed a bite at... Read More

CHICAGO (AP) — Vacationing in Chicago this week from Europe, Jelle den Burger and Nirusa Naguleswaran grabbed a bite at the Dog House Grill: a classic Italian beef sandwich for him, grilled cheese for her. Both think the way their genders lined up with their food... Read More

Gov. Jay Inslee Says Washington Will Make Clear Hospitals Must Provide Emergency Abortions

SEATTLE (AP) — Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday said Washington will spell out in state law that hospitals must provide... Read More

SEATTLE (AP) — Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday said Washington will spell out in state law that hospitals must provide abortions if needed to stabilize patients, a step that comes as the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule this month on whether conservative states can bar abortions... Read More

June 11, 2024
by Dan McCue
Federal Judge Tosses Florida Ban on Gender-Affirming Care

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A Florida law banning gender-affirming health care for transgender minors and restricting access to care for some... Read More

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A Florida law banning gender-affirming health care for transgender minors and restricting access to care for some transgender adults is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled Tuesday. The law, which was signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in May of last year, barred doctors... Read More

June 11, 2024
by Dan McCue
DC to Open Final Application Period for Medical Cannabis Dispensaries

WASHINGTON — The District of Columbia will open what it is calling the “final” application period for medical cannabis license... Read More

WASHINGTON — The District of Columbia will open what it is calling the “final” application period for medical cannabis license applications on July 1. In all, 33 retail licenses and two internet licenses will be available to non-social equity applicants, with the application period slated to... Read More

June 11, 2024
by Anna Claire Miller
Film Panel to Discuss Loneliness Epidemic and Importance of Social Connection

WASHINGTON — Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy are set to host a film panel... Read More

WASHINGTON — Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy are set to host a film panel discussion on the dangers of loneliness in American society Tuesday evening, following a showing of the documentary “Join or Die” at the Capitol Visitor Center. Created... Read More

Community Health Centers' New Crisis: The Need for Backup Power

HEALDSBURG, Calif. (AP) — The 2017 Tubbs Fire, which killed 22 people and destroyed 5,600 buildings, was already a stressful time... Read More

HEALDSBURG, Calif. (AP) — The 2017 Tubbs Fire, which killed 22 people and destroyed 5,600 buildings, was already a stressful time at Alliance Medical Center’s clinic here, as workers who picked grapes in the nearby vineyards streamed into the nonprofit community health center with burns, symptoms of... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top