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Cuomo Signs Anti-Shackling Bill into Law

Advocates rally to urge Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign the anti-shackling law. (Correctional Association of New York)
Advocates rally to urge Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign the anti-shackling law. (Correctional Association of New York)
December 24, 2015

ALBANY, N.Y. - Gov. Andrew Cuomo has delivered a holiday gift to pregnant women in New York State prisons and jails. As the year draws to a close, Cuomo signed a bill strengthening an existing law that prohibits shackling women during childbirth and extending it to all stages of pregnancy.

Tamar Kraft-Stolar, co-director of the Women and Justice Project, calls the signing a major victory for women in New York.

"This law is just, this law is an absolutely critical step in protecting women's health, safety and basic human rights," says Kraft-Stolar.

The new law also prohibits shackling during transportation to doctor's appoints and bans corrections staff from being present in the delivery room except when requested.

The state banned shackling during childbirth in 2009 but that law was routinely ignored. Kraft-Stolar says the new law requires annual training of corrections personnel, that women be informed of their rights and that those rights be posted in prison medical facilities.

"And, critically, it requires that correctional facilities report every time that they use shackles under the extraordinary-circumstances exception in the law," she says.

Shackling during pregnancy, which includes leg and waist chains, poses a danger to women and their unborn children by increasing the risk of falls and the likelihood of blood clots.

According to Kraft-Stolar, the new law makes New York a national leader in preserving the health and dignity of incarcerated women. She says 22 states and the District of Columbia have banned shackling during childbirth.

"But the vast majority of states allow shackling all throughout pregnancy," says Kraft-Stolar. "And so, this is the most progressive law of its kind in the country and we see this as a model."

Kraft-Stolar credits women who spoke out about their experiences of being shackled while pregnant for making the new law a reality.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY