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

January 30, 2019 by Maria Volkova

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.

Health

Planned Parenthood To Stop Taking Title X Funds Rather Than Comply With Abortion ‘Gag Rule’ Civil Rights
Planned Parenthood To Stop Taking Title X Funds Rather Than Comply With Abortion ‘Gag Rule’

WASHINGTON — Planned Parenthood said Monday it will withdraw from the federal Title X program that helps low-income people access contraception rather than comply with what it calls a new Trump administration “gag rule” that prohibits it from providing abortion referrals to those patients. The announcement... Read More

Where Doctors Can Recommend Marijuana to Replace Opioids Marijuana
Where Doctors Can Recommend Marijuana to Replace Opioids

DENVER — A car accident 17 years ago shattered Ashley Weber’s spine and left her confined to a wheelchair. After the accident, she said, she was prescribed strong opioids, developed an addiction to them and spent her days in a narcotic-induced mental fog. Over the past... Read More

Rural America Has a Maternal Mortality Problem. Midwives Might Help Solve It Health
Rural America Has a Maternal Mortality Problem. Midwives Might Help Solve It

HUNTINGDON, Tenn. — The sun is setting just as midwife Sheryl Shafer wraps up a long Thursday on the road visiting families in west Tennessee and Kentucky. She knows the patient on her last stop, a 21-year-old Amish woman in a two-story farmhouse without electricity, is... Read More

Majority Of Large Employers Have Concerns About 'Medicare For All' Proposals, Survey Finds Opinion Polls
Majority Of Large Employers Have Concerns About 'Medicare For All' Proposals, Survey Finds
August 20, 2019
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - A majority of large employers believe the Medicare for all proposals being touted by some White House aspirants would lower the number of uninsured in the United States, but at a cost of higher taxes and a decline in the quality of health care,... Read More

Health Law’s ‘Cadillac Tax’ May Finally Be Running Out Of Gas Health
Health Law’s ‘Cadillac Tax’ May Finally Be Running Out Of Gas

The politics of health care are changing. And one of the most controversial parts of the Affordable Care Act — the so-called Cadillac tax — may be about to change with it. The Cadillac tax is a 40% tax on the most generous employer-provided health insurance... Read More

Hepatitis A Races Across the Country Health
Hepatitis A Races Across the Country

AKRON, Ohio — Just before the Fourth of July, Trenton Burrell began feeling run-down and achy. Soon he could barely muster the energy to walk from one room to another. A friend shared an alarming observation: “You’re turning yellow.” Within days, the 40-year-old landed in the... Read More

Straight From The Well
scroll top