- Associated Press - Monday, February 24, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - An effort to limit the use of restraints on pregnant Iowa prisoners won unanimous approval Monday in the state Senate, sending it on to the House for final passage.

The bill would require the Iowa Department of Corrections to develop statewide rules clarifying limitations for restraint use on pregnant inmates, with restraints only allowed when there is a risk of escape or the inmate poses an imminent threat to herself, staff or others. The department would have to begin the rulemaking process within 60 days of the bill’s enactment, and the most current, acceptable medical practices must be considered through this process.

The legislation also would develop medical plans for pregnant inmates and require the report of all instances of restraint use to the Legislature each year.

Restraint policies are currently determined by individual facilities and are typically not disclosed.

But Sen. Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, who sponsored the bill, said she isn’t comfortable with such privacy.

“One thing I think all of us in this chamber would agree on is the desire for government to be more transparent,” she said. “Maternal health policies affecting women who are imprisoned or jailed should be public information.”

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