Bill on rules for restraining pregnant inmates passes the Iowa Senate

"I believe Iowa shouldn’t be hiding its internal health policies for pregnant inmates and detainees"

Published: February 24 2014 | 6:00 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 4:06 am in
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DES MOINES -- The state Department of Corrections would have to publicly establish rules for restraining pregnant inmates and detainees under a bill that passed the Senate Monday.

Senate File 2190 requires the department to hold a public process for adopting the rules along with legislative input within 60 days of the bill’s effective date. The bill would apply to county jails, municipal holding facilities, prison and correctional facilities. The department would have to adopt specific rules on when restraints can be used and procedures for a support person to accompany the inmate during labor and childbirth.

The bill was approved by the Senate 49-0 with one Senator absent.

The Department of Corrections does not currently make its requirements for detaining pregnant inmates public. Sen. Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, said she’s seen the department’s policy and is “not comfortable” with them and said the bill would provide for more transparency.

“I believe Iowa shouldn’t be hiding its internal health policies for pregnant inmates and detainees,” Petersen said on the Senate floor.

The use of restraints would be limited to situations where a pregnant inmate posed a serious threat to herself, staff or other individuals or if she proved to be “an immediate and credible” risk of escaping and other means of containment had already been exhausted.

The department would be required to disclose each time restraints were used in an annual report in August to the Legislature.

The bill now makes its way to the House for possible debate where it will be assigned to a committee for further discussion.

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