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Prison Birth Sparks Calls for CT Legislation

Advocates for people in prison say the quality of health care in Connecticut prisons is a long-standing issue. (Andrea Sears)
Advocates for people in prison say the quality of health care in Connecticut prisons is a long-standing issue. (Andrea Sears)
February 19, 2018

HARTFORD, Conn. — Prisoners’ rights advocates are calling for new legislation to protect inmates’ health, safety and human rights, after a woman gave birth in a Connecticut prison cell.

Officials at the York Correctional Institution in Niantic have launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the birth last Tuesday. David McGuire, director of the ACLU of Connecticut, has joined with prison reform and reproductive rights groups in calling for the state to address what he said is a long-standing issue.

"We're hoping that this latest incident spurs some real change,” McGuire said. “So there needs to be statewide laws mandating meaningful access to medical care for these women."

After the birth was discovered, the mother and child were treated and taken to a hospital. Corrections officials say they are in good health.

McGuire noted that two employees of the University of Connecticut Health's Correctional Managed Health Care unit, which is responsible for medical care for people serving time, have been told not to report to the facility until the investigation is completed.

"The Department of Correction has announced, not too long ago, that they're transitioning away from that provider,” he said, “because there have been some real issues with medical care - not only for women, but for men in the Department of Correction here in Connecticut."

State officials have hired an expert to review 25 cases involving medical care problems in the prisons.

There is also pending state legislation to prohibit the shackling of women in prison who are pregnant. McGuire said there is a current ban on that practice in Connecticut prisons, but it's based on an administrative directive from within the DOC.

"The Department of Correction, unlike most state agencies, does not have a regulatory review process,” he said; “meaning that the next commissioner can decide to do away with the current shackling prohibition and allow that practice again."

Nineteen states have passed laws banning the shackling of pregnant women in prison.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - CT