In this series, The more you know, the better you do, our summer intern Amber Byrd will look at different concepts that impact the fight for reproductive freedom in Ohio. First off, we’re going to look at a topic near and dear to our mission: Incarceration & Shackling.

What is it?

Shackling refers to the use of restraints on pregnant and incarcerated persons before and after giving birth.

Most prisons do not have on-site obstetric care or prenatal care. As a result, women must be transported to local healthcare facilities. During transport, these women are handcuffed and shackled with waist chains or leg irons.

Who does it affect?

The United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. In the United States, over 231,000 women and girls are incarcerated.

Approximately 2,000 children are born to incarcerated women and girls each year.

Because of systemic racism and societal barriers, Black and Native American women are disproportionately incarcerated. Black women represent 29% of the incarcerated population yet Black Americans as a whole represent 13% of the American population.

Why this matters

Most women are incarcerated for non-violent offenses. Women giving birth do not pose as a flight risk, yet they are treated as such.

Shackling restricts infant and mother bonding.

Shackling is another practice that is propagating racial discrimination in the United States.

It is part of an underlining problem where prisoners are not treated as human beings. Especially, those who are Black and Brown.

What has been done

There are only 13 states with anti-shackling legislation. However, it is not strictly enforced.

In 2018, Congress passed the First Step act to reduce some prison sentences, improve federal facilities, and to eliminate the practice of shackling pregnant women. However, this law only applies to incarcerated women in federal facilities and not state prisons.

What we can do

Write and to state and local legislators voicing your concern about this issue.

Bring awareness to shackling because the grim reality is that many people do not know that this practice exists.


About the author

My name is Amber Byrd. I am a second-year doctoral student studying Sociology (Medical Sociology and Social Inequality) at Case Western Reserve University. I am a summer intern at NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. I will be presenting a series of information about reproductive justice and issues facing the Black body. In the age of Black Lives Matter, it is important to understand the lasting effects of systemic racism and how it pertains to reproductive justice and reproductive health. I will present this information through a series of fact sheets that will be published once a week. I hope you will join me in learning more about this extremely important topic. It is important that we all work together to create a more equitable future for the current and future generations.

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