National Organizations Ask Feds to Address Use of Restraints on Incarcerated Pregnant Women and Adolescents

December 31, 2015


The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ), in conjunction with five national partner organizations, released a statement calling on Congress and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to work with state and local governments to restrict the use of restraints on incarcerated women and girls during pregnancy, labor and postpartum recovery. The coalition represents the fields of physical and mental health, corrections, human rights, and juvenile and criminal justice, and comprises:

Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia have laws or regulations restricting the practice. However, these policies vary widely in their scope and comprehensiveness. Furthermore, unofficial and news reports in states even with strong restrictions in place indicate that the practice continues with regularity. This situation illustrates the need for a stronger federal role in curtailing the practice. The joint statement proposes three specific federal policies:

  • Data collection by DOJ on pregnancy and the use of restraints in jails and prisons. There is an alarming dearth of information on women's health in America's correctional facilities, and it is critical to capture a more accurate baseline and collect information regularly, to guide reform efforts.
  • Training and technical assistance by DOJ, to ensure successful implementation of efforts at the state and local level to restrict the use of restraints.
  • Continued leadership by the Bureau of Prisons, which can build on its existing policy restricting the use of restraints by reporting on lessons learned and supporting DOJ's training and technical assistance.

The joint statement also calls for standardized pregnancy care by qualified professionals, evidence-based and trauma-informed care and mental health services, and other gender-responsive correctional policies and practices.

Earlier this year, the NCJFCJ passed a resolution which supports the advancement of a trauma-informed and developmentally appropriate approach to juvenile justice that limits the use of shackles in court.