NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee lawmakers are advancing a bill strictly limiting the shackling of pregnant inmates.
It’s been over a decade since Juana Villegas gave birth while shackled in a Nashville jail. Now, two lawmakers from Memphis are trying to prevent other women from suffering the same experience.
Representative Karen Camper and Senator Raumesh Akbari are sponsoring a bill that would generally prohibit restraints of a pregnant inmate. More specifically, a pregnant inmate’s ankles, legs or waist couldn’t be shackled during labor or delivery.
It also would not allow a pregnant inmate to be shackled behind the back or to be attached to another inmate.
“We want safe and healthy pregnancies for every mother and child,” said Sen. Akbari. “By restricting the dangerous and inhumane practice of shackling incarcerated women who give birth while in correctional custody, we are promoting better pregnancy outcomes.”
Some exceptions would allow restraints on a pregnant inmate who is a flight risk, poses a threat to self or others or has a classification level requiring shackles. In those cases, the bill says only the least restrictive restraints necessary should be used.
The legislation still needs a House vote.