Lawmakers poised to outlaw shackling of pregnant inmates

Maryland lawmakers are poised to outlaw the shackling of pregnant inmates.

The proposed law would make it illegal to shackle incarcerated women while they are in labor, delivery and recovering from giving birth.

While legislative analysts said most jails and prisons in Maryland already advise against using waist restraints and unnecessary confinement for pregnant women, the bill makes clear that it is illegal and spells out the narrow circumstances under which pregnant women can be shackled.

The Senate unanimously passed the measure on Friday. The House passed it last month, but there are small differences that must be resolved before the bill could be sent to the governor.

Gov. Martin O'Malley's spokeswoman, Nina Smith, said in an e-mail she expects him to sign it after reviewing the final version.

Lawmakers approved a similar law last year but did not iron out the differences before time ran out on the session.

The measure was introduced by Del. Mary Washington, a Baltimore Democrat, and backed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP. In a statement released by the ACLU, Washington said the law "is an important and long overdue step away from dangerous and antiquated practices that dehumanize women."

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