Tennessee and Virginia Agree: Stop Shackling Pregnant Women

Women's dignity was vindicated twice in a double dose of justice on Thursday. A federal jury in Tennessee awarded Juana Villegas $200,000 as compensation for the suffering she endured when the Davidson County Sheriff's Office unconstitutionally shackled her to her delivery bed in 2008.

Meanwhile, just across the state line in Virginia (which failed to enact anti-shackling legislation earlier this year), Delegate Patrick Hope, of the Virginia General Assembly , and anti-shackling advocates announced that the Virginia Department of Corrections has agreed to implement regulations prohibiting the shackling of pregnant inmates during labor and post-partum recovery.

These two actions are just the latest in a string of actions this year recognizing that shackling women during labor and delivery is not only inhumane but is bad for the health of women and their babies. Earlier this year, four states — Hawaii, Rhode Island, Idaho and Nevada — passed laws to eliminate this inhumane and unconstitutional practice, and recently a federal court held that shackling violates the Constitution.

Clearly, people are finally getting the message.

While there's good cause to stop and celebrate this week, we still have plenty to do. Davidson County is appealing the verdict, and the Virginia legislature has yet to pass a law that will protect all women who are incarcerated — such as those in local jails and detention facilities not protected by the DOC policy. That's why the ACLU will continue its work across the country to end this barbaric practice and protect the health of women prisoners and their babies.

Learn more about reproductive freedom: Sign up for breaking news alerts, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

View comments (6)
Read the Terms of Use


"dignity?" Really? they are prisoners, If they were worried about their "dignity" they shouldn't have committed crimes


Absolutely, Yikes, because no one is ever wrongfully convicted, and no one is ever sentenced more harshly than they should be.


yikes? they are still human beings. they deserve to be treated as such.


"Yikes" -- Dignity and punishement are independent concepts. That is what I and everyone else here sees -- why do you not?

One can commit a crime and still have dignity. Have you ever heard of civil disobedience?


Yall realize pregnant prisoners still spit on CO's, throw fecies, and try to fight CO's, yes even the pregnant ones.

Tiarra Fain's Mother

All inmates are not violent and should not have to endure this barbaric practice. It is morally wrong and puts the life of Mom and Baby at risk. Animals arent even shackled during the birthing process. My daugher was in the county jail for giving a false name during a traffic stop, she most ceratinly did not deserve to be mistreated in any capacity, not to mention she hadnt been sentenced to anything when this happened. It is always easier to assume but not every case is the same. I will see these law-makers next week in Richmond and promise anyone and everyone who reads this that I will not stop until Legislation is passed here in Virginia and this ends!

Stay Informed