Justice Denied: Care of Childbearing Women in the Criminal Justice System

Regina Cardaci

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Pregnancy and childbirth for most women are typically positive experiences, a time where they are granted extra courtesy and assistance. For women in the criminal justice system in the United States, this is not the case as they are subject to treatment that is inadequate, and at times dangerous and inhumane. An example of such treatment is the practice of shackling pregnant women at various points in their pregnancies, including during labour. Shackling refers to the practice of restraining women with metal or plastic handcuffs, ankle restraints or ‘belly chains.’ This practice places women and their unborn babies at undue risk. Recently, some states in the United States have passed legislation banning this practice, although the majority of states have no restrictions on this practice. Many providers and caregivers, as well as the general public, are not aware that such laws are in effect, while others are not aware of the practice of shackling. Caring for women requiring reproductive health care, including complete obstetric and gynaecologic health services are recognised and supported by the World Health Organisation. No longer can the health of childbearing women be denied or placed at risk within the criminal justice system. This paper will discuss the recent changes in these laws, the rights of incarcerated childbearing women, and implications for practice, policy, and research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Prison at the Crossroads
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781848882812
ISBN (Print)9789004374195
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • Incarcerated women
  • health care
  • pregnancy
  • shackling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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