SAINT PAUL, Minn. – On Wednesday, KARE 11 published the findings of a year-long investigation outlining the shocking and inhumane treatment of pregnant incarcerated women who were shackled while in labor. In one case, an innocent woman by the name of Sara was shackled for 36 hours while in labor. In the aftermath of such instances, jails failed to report these violations to the Department of Corrections as required under state law.
In response, Senator Sandy Pappas (DFL-Saint Paul) issued the following statement:
“The mistreatment of incarcerated women in labor as reported by KARE 11 is disgusting and inexcusable. As a mother of three, I can’t imagine being isolated, shackled, and unable to exercise bodily autonomy during labor. Stress during labor can be dangerous for both the mother and the child, and it is incredibly concerning that these despicable actions were carried out by individuals who hold positions of public trust and authority.
“The shackling of mothers in labor is a violation of state law, other than in the instance of exceptional circumstances in which the safety and security needs of the mother, correctional staff, or public are under threat. None of the episodes chronicled by KARE 11 come even close to meeting this high threshold.
“County jails are required under law to report to the Department of Corrections on the use of restraints on pregnant women, women in labor, and women who have given birth in the preceding three days. The Department of Corrections reported zero restraints of pregnant women in 2020, reflecting Hennepin County’s failure to report at least three instances of women who were shackled while pregnant.
“Commissioner Schnell has been working to implement changes to the Department of Corrections that reflect the humanity of all individuals in the incarceration system. The legislature also has a responsibility to ensure that some of the most vulnerable Minnesotans are granted the full protection of the law. I am proud to have voted for the reforms that closed loopholes that allowed instances like this to happen, and I fully support Commissioner Schnell’s policy to require counties to report any instance of restraining pregnant incarcerated women to the Department of Corrections within ten days. Additionally, I am thankful to KARE 11 for their thorough investigation, which brought this issue to the light of day. In the meantime, I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure that nothing like this ever happens in the state of Minnesota ever again.”