The Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) - Gov. David Paterson on Wednesday signed into law a bill that largely bans the use of restraints on inmates during childbirth, making New York the sixth state in the country to do so, a spokeswoman said.
Paterson signed the bill in spite of having reservations about language in it that allows a woman to be cuffed by one wrist while being taken from a prison to a hospital if she is considered to be a danger to herself, medical staff or correctional officers, spokeswoman MarissaShorenstein said.
At a rally in support of the bill last week, Paterson said he was concerned that a woman cuffed in an ambulance, for instance, could be in danger if there were an accident and she couldn't get out of the vehicle because of the restraint.
Shorenstein said Paterson would look to address those concerns through an amendment, if necessary.
Incarcerated women at state prisons and county jails around the country are routinely shackled during childbirth, often by correctional staff without medical training, according to civil rights organizations and prisoner advocates.
The practice has been condemned by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for unnecessarily risking women's health, and court challenges are pending in several states.
Correction departments and unions have argued that such broad-stroke policy that bans shackling could put medical staff and correctional officers at risk. They also point to the risk of escape posed by potentially dangerous inmates if they are left unshackled.
Similar state laws banning shackling exist in Texas, Illinois, California, Vermont and New Mexico, the American Civil Liberties Union says. Legislatures in Massachusetts and Tennessee are considering bans.
Advocates say the bans haven't led to any escape attempts.