INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Kacey Rucker said when she was pregnant with her daughter, Ava’Joi, doctors classified her as high-risk because of her anemia and her age of 38 at the time. She said she remained restrained throughout her pregnancy and while in labor and childbirth.
“When I originally got to triage, there was a really nice doctor, and I remember her asking the officers if they could just take the restraints off,” she said.
Rucker said the corrections officers who were with her would not release her from her restraints unless a form was filled out stating she was in active labor. Rucker said Once that process started, she said she delivered her daughter in about five minutes.
“The justice system is supposed to be restorative, not vindictive,” she said. “And so, when you are demeaning me as a woman and as a mother by keeping me shackled when it is unnecessary, how is that restorative?”
On Tuesday, a state Senate committee unanimously approved a bill to limit restraints on pregnant inmates. Restraints would have to be the least restrictive necessary beginning in the second trimester. Restraints could not be used at all for someone in labor, delivery or the immediate postpartum period unless the person posed an immediate danger to themselves or others or was a substantial flight risk. Those rules would apply to both jails and prisons. The measure passed the House unanimously at the end of January.
The Department of Corrections said the bill would codify into law policies that already have been in place since at least 2015. When asked about the situation Rucker described, a department spokesperson said IDOC could not comment on individual cases. The agency said 16 people gave birth while in state prison last year.
Rucker was released from prison 10 months after she gave birth to Ava’Joi. Four years later, she said she is raising her daughter and is working toward a career helping other formerly-incarcerated women reenter society. She said the bill would make a big difference for incarcerated mothers and she hopes it signals a broader reassessment of how the state treats those convicted of a crime.
The bill would have to go back to the House if it passes the Senate because of changes the Senate made.