Iowa Senate panel wants rules for restraining pregnant inmates

Measure requiring standardized Taser training for law enforcement officers also passes

Rod Boshart
Published: February 11 2014 | 5:50 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 3:31 am in
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DES MOINES – The state Department of Corrections would be required to adopt rules for the use of restraints on pregnant inmates and detainees under a bill that passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday without dissent.

Under an amended version of Senate File 2019, the department would have to commence an open and public process for adopting rules with some guidance from the Legislature within 60 days of the bill’s effective date. The rules would apply to prison and correctional facilities, county jails and municipal holding facilities and require that restraints be used in the least-restrictive manner.

“I think it’s a compromise,” said Sen. Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines. “It keeps us moving in the right direction.”

The department rules would specify when restraints are permissible to be used and provide guidelines for allowing a support person in the birthing room with the inmate or detainee during labor and childbirth. Use of restraints would be limited to circumstances where a pregnant inmate or detainee was deemed to be a serious threat to herself, staff or others, or when the woman posed “an immediate and credible” risk of escape and was not able to be contained through the use of other methods, according to the bill.

Petersen said she was uncertain what the prospects were for legislative passage on an issue that has stalled previously. She added that lawmakers could revisit the issue if they do not like the outcome of the department’s rule-making process.

Also Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a measure that would require Iowa law enforcement officers and jailers to receive standardized training for using Tasers. Under Senate Study Bill 3077, all state and local law officers would be required to undergo Taser training at the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy.

Currently, Iowa has no law requiring such training. The proposed legislation would require officers to be trained in technical uses, along with ethical uses of the devices.

The committee also approved a “silver alert” measure that would direct the state Department of Transportation to post information on its electronic highway signs in circumstances where a “cognitively impaired” person had gone missing in the area for less than 72 hours.

The bills all go to the full Iowa Senate for consideration.

Comments: (515) 243-7220; rod.boshart@sourcemedia.net

 

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