A new lawsuit, as reported by the Associated Press, alleges that more than 40 women have been forced to give birth in shackles in the Milwaukee County Jail over just the past six years. And the details are just horrifying.

The plaintiff of this civil class action case was admitted for a 7-month sentence while pregnant. She was forced to endure all of her prepartum care in shackles, then give birth to her newborn baby while wearing a restraint called a belly chain, keeping her wrists tied to her waist, while her legs were attached with irons.

Even as her own doctors and OBs demanded the chains be released for labor and delivery, they were not.

Can you even imagine the trauma of this? I’m distraught just thinking about it.

And I’m not sure how any mother who has herself given birth can read about this kind of brutality inflicted on a fellow mother and feel anything short of outrage and dismay.

The NY Daily News, which has seen the court papers, elaborated that “the confinement inflicted more pain on her as she gave birth, left marks on her body and made it harder for hospital workers to give her an epidural.”

Daya goes into labor on Orange is the New Black | Lionsgate Films + HB0

Daya goes into labor on Orange is the New Black | © Lionsgate Films, HBO

While I’m not privy to all the details of the case, I’m having a hard time seeing how treatment like this — of 40 pregnant women, no less —  is justified. It’s nothing short of abuse.

In fact, there are already policies in place restricting the use of shackles on pregnant women, as the AP reports, from agencies including the U.S. Marshal Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and even the Federal Bureau of Prisons itself.

But the worst part may be that this class action lawsuit against the Milwaukee County Jail is not an isolated one.

If you follow orgs like the Women’s Prison Association — which often works together with the cast of Orange is the New Black — or have visited Piper Kerman’s Justice Reform website, you’ll know that the shameful treatment of pregnant inmates has been going on for years.

It’s part of a pattern of stripping women inmates of their humanity in order to justify the unjustifiable — especially at a time women most need nurturing, support, and every chance to become the best mothers they can possibly be. Same as any of us.

Top image: shutterstock via license

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