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Earlier this month, the Virginia Board of Corrections unanimously approved language to regulate and limit the use of restraints on pregnant women. The regulations must be approved by the Governor in order to go into effect.

The Board has jurisdiction over jails. The Virginia Department of Corrections has its own policy, adopted in 2011, regulating the use of restraints on pregnant women in the custody of state prisons.

According to press reports, advocates are still hoping the Legislature will enact a law against shackling, one that would require corrections staff to file a report – available to the public – on any occasion that they restrain a woman under the exceptions allowed in the proposed regulations.

As evidence from California, Illinois, and Washington shows, neither legislation nor regulation is enough – vigilant oversight and enforcement are needed to guarantee that prisons and jails will follow the rules to protect women’s rights and health.

Still, the Board’s decision is progress and adds weight to the national trend to stop or at least restrict this inhumane practice.

And this progress is something we can be grateful for on Thanksgiving.

Thanks to Lois Ahrens of The Real Cost of Prisons Project for alerting me to this development.

To learn more about conditions of confinement affecting pregnant women, check out my recent article

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