Historically, correctional policies regarding the use of restraints were designed to ensure the safety and security of correctional staff and inmates in correctional institutions with predominantly male populations; however, the demographics of the justice involved population are shifting to include women and girls in growing numbers. Currently, approximately 1.3 million women are under the authority of the criminal justice system, with approximately 209,000 women held in jails and prisons. Almost three-quarters of the women in state and federal prisons are mothers (a 122 percent increase since 1991). Between three and five percent of female prisoners report being pregnant at the time of admission or intake to a correctional facility.
The release of new principles and operational practices guiding the use of restraints with pregnant women and girls provides a starting point for individual organizations to use in developing effective internal policies, procedures, and practices that maximize safety and minimize risk for pregnant women and girls, their fetuses/newborns, and correctional and medical staff. The recommendations emphasize the collaborative development (between correctional leaders and medical staff) of written policies and procedures on the use of restraints, based on the recognition that the unique healthcare needs of women and girls are not addressed by most standard custody management policies. The principles emphasize the need to balance the safety, health, and well-being of pregnant women and girls and their fetuses/newborns with partners such as care givers, corrections staff, and medical staff. Among the five elements outlined in the document is that the use of restraints on pregnant women and girls be limited to absolute necessity.
The publication can be downloaded at NIC Women Offenders Resources (under Physical Health) and at the National Resource Center on Justice Involved Women.