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Report: Despite Bans, Pregnant Prisoners Still Shackled During Birth

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It is a harrowing image - pregnant prisoners handcuffed to their hospital beds while they give birth. New York State banned the practice several years ago, but a new report out today says it's still happening. North Country Public Radio's Natasha Haverty has more.

NATASHA HAVERTY, BYLINE: Maria Caraballo gave birth to her daughter exactly five years ago this Saturday; nearly a whole year after New York passed its anti-shackling law. But she says she was handcuffed for eight hours the day her daughter, Estrella, was born.

MARIA CARABALLO: I had one cuffed to the bed through everything - when I was pushing, when I was in pain, when my daughter was actually coming out. The whole time I couldn't sit up and I could only lift half of my body because of the shackles.

TAMAR KRAFT-STOLAR: Having a law on the books is just one part of the picture.

HAVERTY: Tamar Kraft-Stolar works at the nonprofit Correctional Association, which is mandated by the state to monitor New York prison conditions. She authored the report revealing violations to the anti-shackling law. She says there's been almost no oversight of the Department of Corrections to ensure that the law is enforced.

KRAFT-STOLAR: And there is routine and widely accepted dehumanization of incarcerated people, and that's really a recipe for unchecked human rights violations.

HAVERTY: Of the 27 pregnant women the report monitored over the past five years, 23 were shackled. New York State's Department of Corrections declined to comment on today's report. For NPR News, I'm Natasha Haverty in upstate New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

State of Democracy Politics and Policy Reporter Natasha Haverty is an award-winning public media journalist whose work has appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and on PRX. Before coming to NHPR she worked at North Country Public Radio. She co-produced The Prison Time Media Project, a national series exploring the legacy of mass incarceration on the anniversary of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Her investigative reporting has won recognition from the Society of Professional Journalists, PRNDI, Murrow, and the AP.

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