"Sick and pregnant women prisoners are chained to their hospital beds all over the USA," reports Amnesty International.
And so over the Fourth of July weekend, the city of Nashville was host to the kind of torture even the United Nations forbids but our nation has conducted in places like Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. It is going to take a courageous state lawmaker to bring the state of Tennessee and Nashville out of the Dark Ages and into a new millennium of tolerance by proposing legislation forbidding such torture here.
Does anyone know of a state legislator who would speak up now and then act in January for the benefit and protection of all women?
The states of California and Illinois have laws forbidding this kind of mistreatment of women. The Wisconsin Department of Corrections has changed its policy to also forbid such torture.
"Jails and prisons commonly use restraints on incarcerated women when they are being transported to and kept in hospital (even when they are in labor or when they are in a coma)," says Amnesty International.
"Jails and prisons use restraints on women as a matter of course regardless of whether a woman has a history of violence (which only a minority have), regardless of whether she has ever absconded or attempted to escape (which few women have) and regardless of her state of consciousness.
"Shackling of all prisoners, including pregnant prisoners, is policy in federal prisons and the US Marshall Service and exists in most state prisons."
This kind of public policy is shocking and obviously the creation of a still very sexist society. America has joined Iran when it comes to the denial of full human rights to women.
Consider this deplorable case:
"In September 2005, although still two weeks from her due date, Samantha Luther, incarcerated in Wisconsin, was allegedly taken in handcuffs and leg shackles to the local hospital, and informed that labor was going to be induced. She told a reporter, 'I was in shock… I felt like all of my rights had been taken away.. '
"Reportedly, her handcuffs were taken off, while her shackles remained on providing 18 inches between her ankles. The doctor ruptured her amniotic sac, and had her pace the hospital hallway for several hours. 'It was so humiliating. My ankles were raw,' Luther said.
"She was given drugs to induce labor, when it did not begin, and reportedly was left in her shackles until just before birth. She reported, 'I had shackles on up until the baby was coming out and then they took them off for me to push… It was unbelievable. Like I was going to go anywhere.'
"She gave birth to a son. Reportedly, it is common to induce inmates before term, however, according to DOC officials, an inmate must sign a consent form."
It is very apparent that Americans don't have much regard for people who break the law. But an increasing number of women are being incarcerated on drug offenses of simply being caught up with a husband or boyfriend who is actually doing the dealing and buying. They often get left holding the bag, literally.
While guilt by association is enough for incarceration, it certainly does not make one a violent criminal. And it certainly doesn't make them or any living thing deserving of torture.
Here is what Amnesty International recommends for any legislation banning the use of restraints on pregnant women:
* Restraints should be used only when they are required as a precaution against escape or to prevent an inmate from injuring herself or other people or damaging property. In every case, due regard must be given to an inmate’s individual history.
* Policies should prohibit the use of restraints on pregnant women when they are being transported and when they are in hospital awaiting birth, and after they have just given birth.
Is there any Tennessee state lawmaker with the courage to propose legislation prohibiting this heinous practice? I'd recommend Rep. Frank Buck, but he is retiring from the General Assembly.
So in the meantime, I have notified Amnesty International of the violation of human rights here of Juana Villegas DeLaPaz. I have requested -- with accompanying evidence -- that Nashville be designated as under "human rights watch" and that all visitors foreign and domestic be advised of the danger in visiting Music City.
Most certainly until local leaders speak up in condemnation of this gross human rights violation and call for an end to the 287g deportation program, all conventions should also avoid this city. I am preparing to put that word out in a column that will appear this week in a Boston, MA., newspaper.
From there, I will take the warning to Chicago for a major gathering of minority journalists and big news organizations from across the country. The story of Juana Villegas DeLaPaz will be heard.
Nashville, the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo of the South, should be designated as a threat to the human rights and dignity of people. And last week's school board vote to resegregate Nashville schools certainly bolsters the case.
If you are member of AI, please copy this web post and send a message concurring with the need for Nashville to be placed under human rights watch.
Until local officials have the courage to speak up, we must do the talking.