State law would prevent restraining inmates during birth

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by DREW MIKKELSEN / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @Drewmikk

KING5.com

Posted on January 15, 2010 at 8:02 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 15 at 8:02 PM

TACOMA, Wash. - Kimberly Mays has given birth to ten children, but she said none of the deliveries was as traumatic as the birth of her son Kenny in 2000.

"It was like a horror movie to me," Mays told KING 5.

The Tacoma woman was serving a 13-month sentence at the time at the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor.

When she began going into labor and had to be transported to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tacoma, she said she was put in leg and wrist restraints.

Mays said she was handcuffed while riding in the ambulance and when she was in active labor she said she was "shackled" to the hospital bed.

"I felt like an animal who was giving birth in front of her masters," said Mays.

The Department of Corrections won't comment on former inmates' complaints.

The Superintendent at the Corrections Center for Women said pregnant inmates are not restrained during the final moments of labor.

Superintendent Douglas Cole said only about 30 percent of pregnant offenders are restrained while they're at the hospital.

On those occasions, said Cole, the women are attached to the hospital bed with a 3-foot-long handcuff.

"The only type of circumstance where a pregnant active labor offender would be in leg restraints would be if she was creating a risk for herself or others," said Superintendent Douglas Cole.

On average, 30 inmates a year from the Gig Harbor facility give birth. It is the only state prison that houses pregnant inmates.

Two pieces of state legislation, one in the house and one in the senate, could prevent law enforcement agencies and corrections officers from using any kind of restraints on pregnant inmates at every level in the state.

The DOC is not taking a stance on the legislation, but Superintendent Cole said his officers will carry out whatever state laws are approved.

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