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People say the third time is the charm.

Imprisoned women and their allies in California certainly hope so.

“Someday, people will look back and be shocked that California would routinely shackle pregnant women,” says Karen Shain, Policy Director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children (LSPC). “This bill is a way to lay the groundwork to ban this practice once and for all.”

Legal Services for Prisoners with Children has been working with women in prison for more than 30 years, and championed the 2005 law that established minimum standards of treatment for pregnant women who are incarcerated.

But the organization’s follow-up research found that nearly two-thirds of county jails never implemented the provisions against shackling.

Moreover, LSPC and other groups knew that pregnant women needed protection from shackling prior to going into labor, giving birth, or immediate postpartum recovery.

Shain recounts the experience of Pauline, who was jailed in Contra Costa County: “She went to court at least 10 times, and every time she left the jail, she was shackled – sometimes around her belly, sometimes attached to another prisoner. Near the end of her pregnancy, she developed pre-eclampsia and had to be hospitalized shackled to her bed, having to ask permission from a guard every time she had to go to the bathroom.”

And so the coalition went back to work to educate policymakers about the harms of restraining pregnant women. Legislators got it, and repeatedly passed strong bills to limit the use of restraints on pregnant women. Both Republican Governor Schwarzenegger and Democratic Governor Brown vetoed those unanimous bills.

Now a new bill that addresses the concerns Governor Brown cited in his veto message is on his desk.

And you can help by signing a letter to Governor Brown. Sign by September 15, or call Governor Brown’s office at: (916) 445-2841.

Update: On Sept. 28, 2012, Governor Brown signed the bill into law. Read all about it here.

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