City of New York pays $610,000 to a woman who was forced to give birth in handcuffs
NEW YORK — The city of New York agreed to pay $610,000 to a woman whom police kept in shackles while she was in labor.
Jane Doe, as she is called in her lawsuit against the city, went into labor in a Bronx jail hours after her arrest on February 7, 2018.
She was arrested in Bronx County Family Court for violating an order of protection that was part of a child custody dispute with her former partner, her attorney Katherine Rosenfeld said.
But at 40 weeks pregnant, there was no urgent need to arrest her, Rosenfeld said.
According to the complaint, she was taken from jail to New York’s Montefiore Medical Center the next morning with metal cuffs on her wrists and heavy shackles on her feet, binding her legs together at the ankles.
Shackling pregnant women in police custody or prison was banned in New York State starting in 2009. The policy was updated in 2015 to include the use of any restraints on pregnant women.
At the hospital, doctors appealed to the officers to remove the restraints, saying they could endanger the woman and her child, the complaint said.
When doctors appealed to a police supervisor, they were told that shackling was NYPD policy, according to the complaint.
“While she was in the NYPD’s custody, Ms. Doe never struggled, resisted, or acted in any way that would even remotely support the use of restraints,” the complaint said.
“Ms. Doe was terrified for herself and for her baby.”
After repeated protests from her doctors, the officers removed the shackles minutes before she gave birth, the complaint said. They shackled her again shortly after she delivered her baby.
She had to feed her new daughter with one arm and she remained in shackles until she was arraigned in her hospital bed hours later.
The lawsuit accused the defendants — the city, NYPD and the officers involved — of assault, unlawful use of restraints and violations of her constitutional rights.
As part of the settlement, the NYPD did not assume any wrongdoing.
The department intends to amend its patrol guide “to better address safety and medical concerns” of arrestees in late stages of pregnancy and through child birth, Detective Sophia Mason said in a statement.
“At the same time, the NYPD will balance these needs with the safety of patients, medical staff, police officers, and others charged with the care and custody of all prisoners,” Mason said.
The woman experienced “a horrific violation of her rights by the NYPD during one of the most intimate moments in a woman’s life: labor, delivery, and welcoming a new baby in her first day of life,” Rosenfeld said.
“The NYPD owes Ms. Doe a public apology for this incident, but the payment of this settlement and the revision of its policies will have to serve that function,” Rosenfeld said.
Co-counsel Ashok Chandran credited Montefiore physicians with advocating for the woman both in the moment and during the lawsuit.
“This settlement, which includes significant reform to the NYPD Patrol Guide, was only possible because our client insisted from day one that she wanted to ensure that what happened to her would never again happen to another woman in New York” Chadran said.