Iowa lawmakers won't act on inmate restraint bill

Updated policy would prohibit pregnant inmates from being restrained unless they pose an immediate risk

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DES MOINES - The chair of a House panel looking considering legislation to establish guidelines for shackling pregnant inmates has reversed course.

Human Services Chairwoman Rep. Linda Miller, R-Bettendorf, said Wednesday that after a review of confidential Department of Corrections documents she is confident best practices are being followed in the treatment of pregnant inmates.

“Our goal was always to solve the problem,” she said. “It’s not necessary to always pass legislation to do that.”

She plans no further action on HSB 95 unless she believes Corrections is not meeting the standards in its policy. The bill would prohibit the use of restraints on pregnant inmates if the health care professional asks for restraints to be removed, if the pregnancy is at 24 weeks or beyond, or during labor or childbirth. If she believes legislation is needed.

However, Sen. Janet Peterson, D-Des Moines, said she has problems with the department’s policy and will continue to seek a legislative solution. She wants to expand the scope to include, for example, whether the father may be in the delivery when an inmate gives birth.

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