Heart in chains by L. Samsarah Morgan
Hello dear ones, I wanted to write to you about a situation which absolutely brought tears to my eyes…
Let me start with the state I live in – California. Each year in California approximately 300 women give birth in prison and each of these women are made to go through this process while shackled to the hospital bed!
Imagine this! Those of you who have given birth – I imagine doing so with armed guards nearby and chained to your bed… There are so many reasons that a woman may find herself in this situation. From immigration concerns to non-violent drug arrests – charges are more stringent than they have been in the past – and thus where one might have received a fine or probation for certain offences – time in jail is more certain. This being the case, it more likely that more women who may be expecting will end up spending time in jail – and then giving birth there.
Forgive me, its truly hard for me to write this I can’t believe the cruelty of it.. And what purpose does it serve? Is the laboring woman supposed to be able to use her super human powers, whilst in the throes of labor – over comes the guards dash from the hospital to a waiting get away car? Really?
And what about the infant? One might say that the momma has done something wrong and is now being punished for her crime. But what did the baby do? What crime did that little one commit that this is the fit punishment?
This is treatment that violates UN standards and approaches torture. This is something that a civilized society should completely disallow.
What a woman endures after giving birth under these humiliating circumstances if just he beginning… what follows is being returned to her cell – to undergo recovery without her baby to breastfeed and care for – her breasts aching to nurse and then going through and assault of her bodies own hormones as she grieves for her baby alone. I hope you are crying – this tale is beyond belief to me.
For me as a women of African American descent. my soul cries out to even consider that women who may be the descendants of slaves, are being forced to birth as their slafe ancestors did – in chains.
It’s bad enough that after giving birth, most women in jail are not allowed to spend any significant time with their new baby. The baby is whisked away, to either be with family members or social services. Is it too much to give that baby at least the bonding that will perhaps ensure that little one has the beginnings of a self of itself? Attachment parenting advocates and psychologist have been instrumental in helping us to value those precious moments after birth , breastfeeding and bonding. We know that a solid bonding with a present and loving mother gives that child the ability to form healthy bionds with others , and ability which lasts a life time and perhaps will help the child to avoid, the mistakes made by his/her parents! Also, we know the effect of growing up in foster or other forms of institutional care has upon younger children, especially newborns. Loving families and even a devoted father is no substitute for meeting the specific needs of a breastfeeding aged baby, in those critical first months of life.
Some states actually have a prison nursery where mothers can keep their little ones close to them until the child reaches the age of two. Andin program such as this it is found – that having their children close is an inspiration to many incarcerated mothers – they try harder, have better behavior and , since they have bonded with their little ones feel a deep desire to be successful people and never again be in jail. Successful as such programs are: they are woefully few and far between.
As I was beginning to say earlier, take a moment to find out what the laws are in your area. How do incarcerated women give birth in your local prisons? County, state, federal? And if your moms are shackled – what is being done to stop this? Families are always asking me how they can be more politically involved – how they can work to ensure better births and better birth outcomes, and conditions for families. Well here is a wonderful opportunity for advocacy! Not everyone can pitch a tent inform of a bank – but perhaps you can join forces with a existing advocacy group – or perhaps you will start one???
Right now in, California Bill number AB2530 sits on Govenor Browns desk, this bills will end this barbaric practice of shackling pregnant women in California’s prisons and jails. A similar bill was vetoed last year – due to pressure put upon the governor by law enforcement officials. In my research I have yet to find a single case where a pregnant or laboring women – posed a threat to her guard – especially whilst she was in labor! Come on!!
I am enclosing the link for a petition in support for AB2530, I also urge you to feel free to contact Governor Brown via phone , 1 916 445 2841. Please ask him to remember his humanity to to extend this simple human kindness to women giving birth!
I hope that you accept my challenge and research the laws in your state, or in other countries. Pregnant, birthing and nursing mommas, are often forgotten persons in many societies – let’s not leave them to suffer alone.
I look forward to finding out what you learned. Feel free to contact me on [email protected]. Until then, be well.