Shackling and the Humanity of Others

Can you think of being shackled, handcuffs, waist chains and ankle manacles, while delivering a baby? Anyone who has given birth, indeed anyone with a conscience, would have to feel revulsion at such practice. Yet it is being done—and legally—in 28 states! A law against it was passed in New York State in 2009 but it was recently discovered that despite it the practice often continues, women in delivery are still shackled, and will be until a new law is signed by Governor Cuomo. On the other coast the U.S. 9th Circuit issued an order to end the routine shackling of prisoners in the federal district court based in San Diego, an order so welcomed by some it was even editorially praised by the Los Angeles Times. Shackling is a practice said to be for security reasons, and includes being applied to people being arraigned meaning treating people who have not yet been convicted as if they had been, thus flying in the face of the presumption of innocence. Yet convicted or not, it’s been used with the exception of a few judges who do not deem it as necessary in their courtrooms. Of course the ruling only applies to the 9th Circuit and to federal cases, leaving it widely used in many instances throughout the country.
Is there a need for shackling except in rare cases of extreme violence? Does its practice reflect another instance of what could be called a troubling mindset on the part of law enforcement? Being arrested and incarcerated is humiliating enough. Is there really a need for further abasement, for further loss of dignity, for further pain and discomfort? If so then the shame would be on those who have so little compassion and who have so little regard for the humanity of others.

One thought on “Shackling and the Humanity of Others”

  1. This is a basic human rights violation. Why should a mother and the
    child being born need to be subjected to the fear that must be created by being shackled?

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