Legislation to restrict the use of restraints on pregnant inmates in Virginia was rejected Thursday by the House of Delegates House Militia, Police and Public Safety subcommittee, which chose to let state prison officials address the issue through regulations that are now being developed.
With just one dissenting vote, the five-member subcommittee tabled Del. Patrick Hope’s bill after hearing from proponents who decried the shackling of pregnant prisoners as barbaric and opponents who said public safety is law enforcement’s top priority.
Hope, D-Arlington County, said afterward that he was “disappointed but not surprised” by the subcommittee’s action.
Law enforcement officials insisted that there is not a systemic problem. John Jones, executive director of the Virginia Sheriffs Association, said law enforcement agencies already operate under standards that require the least restrictive restraint necessary for all inmates — not just pregnant ones.
He also said public safety is law enforcement’s No. 1 concern.
“We don’t accept that pregnant inmates can’t be violent,” he said. “We think they can.”
Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur said supporters of Hope’s bill “are not experts in safety and security and managing inmates.” She said the state regulatory process, not the state code, is the proper way to deal with the issue.