Governor to Sign Bill Prohibiting Shackling of Pregnant Inmates During Childbirth

CARSON CITY, NV - Assembly Bill 408, which prohibits the use of restraints on Nevada female prisoners during labor, delivery, or childbirth recuperation unless the prisoner is a “serious and immediate threat of harm” to herself or others, or a “substantial flight risk,” has now passed both houses of the Nevada legislature.

The bill unanimously passed the Nevada State Senate, 21-0, on Wednesday, May 11, 2011, after having unanimously passed the Nevada State Assembly, 42-0, on April 25. The bill is expected to be signed by Gov. Brian Sandoval during the week of May 16, 2011.

“This is a tremendous step forward for the Nevada Department of Corrections and all residents, especially the women, of Nevada,” said Dane S. Claussen, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada. “But we also still have a lot of work to do with Nevada’s prisons.”

The ACLU of Nevada, in its lobbying during the 2011 legislature, made AB408 a high priority. ACLU staff members testified on the bill, met with legislators individually, and monitored it closely through committee hearings and votes.

In Mothers Behind Bars, a 2010 study by the Rebecca Project for Human Rights and the National Women’s Law Center, Nevada was given a composite grade of “F+” for its treatment of women prisoners. This included a “D” for shackling policies, an “F” for prenatal care, and an “F” for family-based treatment as an alternative to incarceration. Nevada also was given an “F” for prison nurseries. On shackling in particular, Nevada was cited by the Mothers Behind Bars study for lacking a statute prohibiting restraints, the Department of Corrections not having a policy limiting use of restraints, and having no consequences for individuals or institutions when use of restraints was unjustified.

The ACLU of Nevada released a report earlier this year, Not Fit for Human Consumption or Habitation: Nevada’s Prisons in Crisis, documenting instances of shackled pregnant prisoners. The report also documented problems in prisons’ food handling areas and staffs, problems with food itself, unsanitary medical services areas, lack of supplies to keep common areas and individual cells clean, severely inadequate dental care, severely inadequate medical care, severely inadequate mental health care, inadequate exercise opportunities, and inadequate accommodations for disabled inmates. The report charged NDOC with violating its own rules, state law, and international human rights law, and also made numerous recommendations, including that Nevada adopt a law preventing the shackling of pregnant inmates.