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Nelson v. Norris

Location: Arkansas
Court Type: U.S. Supreme Court
Last Update: November 19, 2009

What's at Stake

The case of an Arkansas woman who was shackled to her hospital bed while in labor in 2003.

(Also: Nelson v. Correctional Medical Services, et al. and Norris v. Nelson)

Nelson was a 29-year-old non-violent offender who was six months pregnant with her second child when she was incarcerated by the Arkansas Department of Corrections (ADOC) in June 2003. Three months later, after going into labor, she was taken to a local hospital where correctional officers shackled her legs to opposite sides of the bed. Nelson remained shackled to the bed for several hours of labor until she was finally taken to the delivery room.

The shackles caused Nelson cramps and intense pain, as she could not adjust her position during contractions. She was unshackled during delivery, but was immediately re-shackled after the birth of her son. After childbirth, the use of shackles caused her to soil the sheets of her bed because she could not be unshackled quickly enough to get to a bathroom.

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