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The Journal of the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration at The George Washington University


In the United States, incarcerated pregnant women are often shackled by correctional officers. Despite being prohibited during labor and delivery at the federal level, and in 22 states and the District of Columbia, perinatal shackling remains standard operating procedure in most correctional facilities. A number of factors contribute to the continuation of this practice even in jurisdictions where it is illegal, including poor implementation of laws banning shackling, lack of training for individual correctional officers, and perpetration of stereotypes about what makes a “good” or “bad” mother. This article reviews the history of the practice of shackling pregnant inmates, assesses the current state of affairs of this practice, examines the arguments for and against perinatal shackling, and analyzes the presumptions that allow it to continue. It then explores several alternatives to shackling along with prospects for change.

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