Pregnant and Imprisoned in the United States


  • Amnesty International

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This article is excerpted from a report by Amnesty International, entitled“Not Part of My Sentence”: Violations of the Human Rights of Women in Custody, March 1999. The article describes violations of the human rights of pregnant women and mothers who are incarcerated in prisons and jails in the United States. Many of the practices employed are not in compliance with international standards and are also prohibited by federal and state laws in the United States. In 1997–1998, more than 2200 pregnant women were imprisoned and more than 1300 babies were born in prisons. In at least 40 states, babies are taken from their imprisoned mothers almost immediately after birth or at discharge from the hospital. International standards restrict the use of restraints to limited situations. Restraints are used as a matter of course in the United States, including on women in labor or immediately after birth, who may be taken to a hospital in handcuffs and chained by a leg to the bed. Amnesty International calls for governments and authorities to take urgent action that will ensure that the laws, regulations, policies, and practices for which they are responsible rigorously conform to international standards and respect the human rights of women deprived of their liberty.