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Report Finds Most California Counties Out of Compliance with New Pregnant Prisoner Anti-Shackling Law

A report released in February 2014 by Legal Services for Prisoners with Children (LSPC) found most California county jails were out-of-compliance with a 2012 law limiting the use of restraints on pregnant prisoners.

LSPC helped enact a 2012 law, California Penal Code (CPC) §3407, restricting the use of restraints on all prisoners known to be pregnant. Starting in March 2013, it began a project to determine which of California's 58 counties were in compliance with the statute while offering assistance, in the form of advice and model regulations, to any county jails which were not in compliance.

CPC §3407 has four components: Cl) prohibiting handcuffing behind the back or the use of leg irons or waist chains on any pregnant prisoner under any circumstances; (2) limiting the restraint of pregnant prisoners during labor, delivery and post-delivery recovery by prohibiting restraints on the wrist or ankles unless this is deemed necessary for the safety and security of the prisoner or others; (3) granting medical professionals the authority to require removal of all restraints from pregnant prisoners during medical emergencies, labor, delivery or post-delivery recovery if this is a medical necessity; and (4) requiring that pregnant prisoners be notified of the provisions of CPC §3407 and any local rules or regulations concerning them.

LSPC mailed letters with Public Records Act (PRA) requests to all 58 county sheriffs advising them of CPC §3407, asking them to review and update their policies and to send LSCP a copy of the updated policies. By February 7, 2014, 55 counties had responded to the PRA request. Only 21 of them were in complete compliance while 32 were in partial compliance and 2 were non-compliant.

To be in complete compliance, a county had to have policies on the four components required by CPC §3407. Of the 32 counties in partial compliance, 16 had policies on three components, 7 had two components and 9 had one. Of those 32, 24 did not refer to notification rights, 17 failed to ban all three restraints, 12 did not refer to medical professionals* authority to order the removal of all restraints and 2 did not state that restraints would not be used unless there was a safety issue. Of the five counties with the largest jail populations: Los Angeles (18,257 prisoners, 2,463 women), Orange (6,818 prisoners, 929 women), San Bernardino (5,945 prisoner, 714 women), San Diego (5,457 prisoners, 823 women) and Sacramento (4,154 prisoners, 467 women), only Sacramento County failed to respond and the others were in complete compliance except Orange County, which lacked a notification policy.

LSPC found that nine counties copied their policies directly from the "Custody Policy Manual" marketed by Lexipol, which claims it is up-to-date on all legislative enactments, but in this case fails to reference or comply with CPC 3407, referencing an older, outdated law from 2005.

Legislators in Maryland are attempting to enact legislation curbing the use of restraints on pregnant prisoners in jails. Similar legislation already protects pregnant women in Maryland prisons. If that happens, it will become the 19th state with such laws. Previous attempts at passing similar legislation failed and some jail officials are opposing the proposed law as too restrictive.

On January 28, 2014, an Iowa legislative panel approved a plan to enact a uniform code to regulate the use of restraints on pregnant prisoners in jails and prisons. Iowa Department of Corrections and Sheriff's Departments officials criticized the plan, saying they should have the ability to change policies to optimize the safety of employees and medical staff. A similar proposal failed in 2013 after the prison system updated its policy to prohibit restraints on prisoners past the 21st week of pregnancy unless they pose a risk. Legislators question whether this year's plan will pass given the opposition among the corrections and law enforcement community.

Supporters point out that the plan will facilitate consistency in the various facilities across the state and that it took an investigative series in the Des Moines Register before the prison system's policy was changed.

"What precipitated this is that the Department of Corrections had a policy that was secret, and that policy didn't change until it was outed," said Amy Campbell of the League of Women Voters of Iowa. "With a law, there is power to change that policy."

Sources: "No More Shackles," Legal Services for Prisoners With Children, February 2014; Associated Press,;

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