Pregnant Prisoner Barred from Obtaining Abortion To Receive New Sentence Tomorrow

Affiliate: ACLU of Ohio
July 13, 2000 12:00 am

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CLEVELAND, OH — At a hearing tomorrow morning, Yuriko Kawaguchi, the “pregnant prisoner” who was sentenced to a highly unusual jail term by a judge who openly sought to bar her from obtaining an abortion will receive a new — and hopefully more fair — sentence, according to her attorneys at the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU has represented Kawaguchi for nearly two years and succeeded in obtaining a reversal of her original six-month jail sentence through an appeals court in April of this year.

The appeals court ordered that Kawaguchi be sentenced to “community control sanctions,” a form of probation. At tomorrow’s hearing, ACLU attorneys will urge that Kawaguchi be allowed to stay in California during her probation, where her work, family, and school are all located. Because of the judge’s actions, Kawaguchi gave birth last year.

In October 1998, Kawaguchi was sentenced to six months in prison by Judge Patricia Cleary for her role in a credit card scheme. Remarks made from the bench during the sentencing hearing, as well as irregularities in the way in which Kawaguchi was transferred to prison, suggested that her sentence was enhanced because she expressed the desire to terminate her pregnancy while incarcerated.

The law requires judges to consider a number of factors before imposing a prison term for minor felonies, and to formally list their reasons for imposing a prison term for minor felonies, rather than the less severe community control sanctions.

The Court of Appeals held that Judge Cleary failed to follow the proper procedures in sentencing Kawaguchi, because she neither considered the many factors required by law, nor listed her reasons for choosing to sentence Kawaguchi to six months in prison.

Kawaguchi, a Bay Area resident whose case gained international attention in 1998, will be represented by ACLU Volunteer Attorneys Linda Rocker, Joan Englund and George Carr, and by Cuyahoga County Public Defender Donald Green.

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