Restraints on Pregnant Inmates-2018 Oklahoma Laws #22

This legislation created a new section of law that covers what type of restraints may be used on pregnant inmates. A violation of this new law is a misdemeanor.

When Restraints May Be Used

pregnant oklahoma inmateAll penal institutions, detention centers, and county jails must use the least restrictive restraints necessary when the facility has actual or constructive knowledge that an inmate is pregnant. The presumption is that no restraints of any kind may be used, unless otherwise directed by the physician in charge:

  1. When transporting an inmate who is in labor;
  2. During any phase of labor;
  3. While the inmate is delivering her baby; or
  4. While the inmate is recuperating from the delivery of her baby, unless there are compelling grounds to believe that the inmate presents an immediate and serious threat of harm to herself, staff, or others or is a substantial flight risk and cannot be reasonably contained by other means.

Prior to labor, if it’s necessary to ensure the safety of the inmate, staff or others, only the least restrictive restraints necessary may be used. They must be used in a way that mitigates adverse clinical consequences. Consultation with medical staff is required prior to application of restraints. Written approval from the warden of a penal institution, director of a detention center, or sheriff of a county jail is required, unless there are compelling grounds to believe that the inmate presents an immediate and serious threat of harm to herself, staff, or others or is a substantial flight risk and can’t be reasonably contained by other means. Correctional officers must be available and will be required to remove restraints upon request from medical personnel.  

Prohibited Restraints

The following restraints and control techniques are prohibited:

  1. Abdominal restraints;
  2. Four-point restraints or placing the pregnant inmate in a facedown position;
  3. Leg and ankle restraints that may increase the risk of forward falls; and
  4. Any kind of chain restraints where the inmate is linked to any other inmate.

In general, the least restrictive restraints necessary must be a frontal wrist restraint which, if used, must be applied in such a way that the pregnant inmate is able to protect herself and the fetus in the event of a forward fall.

Privacy and Notice of Restraints

To maintain privacy, when appropriate, correctional officers will be positioned outside the room of the inmate, unless requested by the physician in charge. Any female inmate confined in a penal institution, detention center, or county jail must receive notice in writing (in a language and manner understandable to the inmate) about the requirements of this law upon admission to the penal institution, detention center, or county jail. The inmate must receive this same notice again when the inmate is known to be pregnant. The warden, director, or sheriff must publish notice of the requirements of this section in prominent locations where medical care is provided to female inmates. All penal institutions, detention centers and county jails must ensure that pregnant inmates have access to one of the following during delivery:

  1. A family member or a friend who has previously been approved on the visitors list of the penal institution, detention center, or county jail;
  2. A member of the clergy; or
  3. A doula; provided, during delivery the doula services are furnished by a certified doula without charge to the penal institution, detention center, or county jail. In such a case, the inmate must make arrangements for the doula services and must notify the penal institution, detention center, or county jail of such request in advance.

A “certified doula” is an individual who has received a certification to perform doula services from a nationally recognized childbirth education association. “Doula services” means continuous emotional and physical support throughout labor and birth and intermittently during the prenatal and postpartum periods.  

Penalty For Violation of Prisoner Restraint Law

It’s a misdemeanor for any correctional officer or county detention officer to use restraints on a pregnant inmate as prohibited by the provisions of this law. The maximum punishment in the county jail is one year, and the maximum fine is $1,000.

HB 3393 created 57 O.S. § 4.2. It went into effect November 1, 2018.

Sources: HB 3393 and 57 O.S. § 4.2

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