Coalition pleased with action on restraints on pregnant inmates

A broad coalition representing faith-based organizations, women’s rights advocates, and prison reform groups announced its approval of the Virginia Board of Corrections’ Nov. 14 passage of regulatory language to restrict the use of restraints on pregnant inmates. The Board of Corrections’ unanimous approval demonstrates its understanding of the importance of this critical health issue.

Many in the medical community, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Medical Association, acknowledge that the use of restraints may cause serious health risks to both the mother and baby, especially with each advancing stage of pregnancy. These proposed regulations provide reasonable and compassionate reform essential for the full health and well-being of both the mother and baby.

While the coalition is pleased with the passage of these regulations, we are disappointed that the Board did not approve a strong public reporting requirement to ensure accountability for and compliance with the regulations. The coalition had hoped that the regulations would provide meaningful oversight through public reporting of the instances in which pregnant inmates are restrained under the exceptions to the regulations approved by the Board. Therefore, the coalition appeals to the Virginia General Assembly to strengthen these regulations by adding a reporting requirement during the upcoming legislative session.

Del. Ben Cline, of Virginia’s 24th House District, says of the Board’s vote, “I strongly support the Board’s action to put appropriate guidelines in place regarding the restraint of pregnant inmates.  No inmate should be unnecessarily restrained, and the regulations approved by the Board balance our concerns for the safety of the baby, the mother, law enforcement, and the public.  The development of these regulations was difficult and prolonged, and all parties are to be commended for their hard work and commitment to reaching this balanced compromise.  I look forward to their swift approval and implementation.”

Delegate Patrick Hope, representing the 47th District of Virginia, says of the Board’s action, “I commend the Board of Corrections for its strong endorsement prohibiting the restraint of pregnant inmates. All stakeholders worked in good faith to reach consensus and the proposed regulations will ensure the protection of the mother, her unborn child, and law enforcement. I hope these regulations will move expeditiously through the approval process and I look forward to working together to ensure our laws carry out the Board’s sentiment that no pregnant inmate should ever be unnecessarily restrained.”

Meanwhile, the coalition is hopeful for a positive executive review through the regulatory process and is confident the Governor will understand the importance of approving regulatory language on what many correctional facilities already purport to do.

The coalition would like to thank the corrections officials from across the Commonwealth, including representatives of the Sheriffs Association, all of whom devoted a great deal of time and added invaluable insight to the discussion. Additionally, the coalition would like to thank Delegate Patrick Hope for his initiation of legislation which prompted these regulatory discussions and also Delegate Ben Cline for his participation at a previous Board of Corrections meeting and for his support of the regulations.

Augusta Health Kris McMackin CPA
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Augusta Free Press