Humiliating people in police custody

Via Jonathan Turley, I came across this shocking story of pregnant women in police custody who, when it came time to deliver their babies, were shackled to the beds. This is even if they are not accused of anything remotely dangerous. One woman has sued to stop this barbaric practice.

Attorney Chris Clem said his client; Charity Flerl was arrested last June on failure to pay child support. She was housed at CCA for several months before she went into labor. [My italics-MS]

“They took her to Erlanger and they kept her shackled the entire time, they kept her legs, feet, waist shackled. When she had to actually give birth, they unshackled the legs from each other, but then they shackled them to the bed and same with her arms,” says attorney Chris Clem. He goes on to ask, “What’s the purpose of it other than curling in human punishment?”

Attorney Clem says there’s no reason she was even partially shackled during birth.

“There’s no indication that she’s violent to herself or to others, no indication that she’s a flight risk, there are two armed guards in the room, not posted outside the room, but in the room next to her,” says Clem.

This comes on the heels of a case in Nashville last year. That’s when a federal judge ordered that Nashville’s policy of shackling women when giving birth be changed. Attorney Clem wants Hamilton County to follow suit.

“Just change the policy, keep your armed security guards there, if you do have reason to think they’re violent, fine maybe shackle them, but most of these prisoners are not there for violent offenses,” says Clem.

It seems absurd that the presence of armed guards nearby isn’t enough.

This whole idea of shackling is bizarre. Not only are pregnant women being shackled, so are juveniles.

Handcuffs pin the teenage girl’s wrists together. The cuffs connect to a heavy chain around her waist so she can’t raise her arms. Another chain connects her ankles, shortening her step as she shuffles into the courtroom. When she shifts in her chair, the shackles clink.

Malyra Perez is 14, and yes, her mother says, she is troublesome. Malyra runs away and goes to school high, her mother tells the judge. She is in court on a charge of grand theft auto.

But she shouldn’t be in shackles, Myra Perez says. “I didn’t like that, not at all. She’s not a criminal.”

Such sentiments are being heard in courts across the nation, where there are increasingly vigorous debates over rules that require metal shackles to be used on youths who appear at juvenile court hearings.

At issue is whether kids as young as 10 need to be shackled for court security, and whether putting chains on young defendants not only makes them look like criminals but also makes them more likely to think of themselves in that way.

DimoraI recall the time when Jimmy Dimora, the county commissioner in our area, was arrested, charged, and eventually convicted of corruption. During his trial, photos would show him being taken to and from the prison with shackles around his wrists and waist and ankles. He was a very large man and with all those chains he looked like a dangerous animal. It felt to me that this was done not for any security reason but to humiliate him in public.

This kind of shaming is wrong, as are all the other ways that people are demeaned by the prison system, such as routine and invasive body cavity searches, stripping, etc. They are more likely to be used against poorer and powerless people. You will not see Wall Street CEOs and other bigwigs being treated this way. Unless there is an extremely good reason (say a dangerous prisoner with a history of violence), shackles and other similar measures that seem to be designed to primarily humiliate people, should not be used.


  1. Wylann says

    But..but…but…they’re criminals!! (Do I need more !!!?)

    I’m surprised by that last one. Usually white collar criminals get the kid glove treatment.

  2. hyphenman says

    Good morning Mano,

    I’ve long been a fan of the various permutations of television’s Law & Order series and I recall being struck when I first watched the Law & Order UK version at how, not only do the police not routinely enter homes with guns drawn but, how that when suspects are arrested, they are not handcuffed.

    I’m sure your United Kingdom readers can shed further light on this difference, but I think that here our television shows have conditioned us to accept that all suspects and criminals must be restrained, regardless of any real or perceived threat.

    Have Coffee Will Write

  3. patterson says

    Just searched for a picture of Conrad Black in shackles without much luck. Maybe next time.

  4. Mano Singham says


    Although he was a county commissioner, Dimora was just a local small time politician involved in petty bribery and other acts of corruption. He was not really one of the elite and he was demonized in the local media and that, I think, made him seem fair game for this treatment. I think it gives people vicarious satisfaction to see people whom they think are awful being treated that way.

  5. smrnda says

    All said, this is why I have a hard time believing there are any good cops. All cops must be aware this happens. Unless they have gone public opposing this, they are complicit, and are just more thugs with state sponsorship..

  6. Dunc says

    How does one man assert his power over another? … By making him suffer. Obedience is not enough. Unless he is suffering, how can you be sure that he is obeying your will and not his own? Power is inflicting pain and humiliation.

  7. Timothy says

    “There’s no indication that she’s violent to herself or to others, no indication that she’s a flight risk, there are two armed guards in the room, not posted outside the room, but in the room next to her,”

    Not only are the shackles beyond necessary, I would argue that having two armed guards standing next to a woman delivering a baby is pretty humiliating, as well.

    Again, if the woman is not a flight risk or violent, I would think that there is no need for guards to be standing right beside her bed other than to humiliate her. And probably sexist. It makes me wonder if a low-risk male prisoner is taken to the hospital for some type of invasive procedure, are the guards standing right next to him?

  8. smrnda says

    @9 Timothy

    From what I know (I have done volunteer work regarding prison populations) medical treatment is a way for prison and police authorities to humiliate, dominate and endanger, and I doubt that any of them pass on the opportunity, whether a male or female prisoner.

  9. Nick Gotts says

    You will not see Wall Street CEOs and other bigwigs being treated this way.

    Actually, you will: the case linked to @3, and that of Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

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