The full article can be found on the Chicago Tribune's website.
By Colleen Mastony, Tribune reporter
Latiana Walton went through most of her labor at Stroger Hospital with an arm and leg chained to her bed, she remembers.
As contractions surged through her body, she could not move or change position to relieve the pain. A Cook County correctional officer repeatedly refused to remove the restraints, she said, even when a doctor objected, saying that he was unable to administer an epidural.
"I actually said to the guard, 'Where am I going?' I'm crying. I'm in pain," recalled Walton, 26. "'I'm not going to get up and run out of the hospital.'"
On Aug. 27, 2008, Walton, who had been arrested after she missed a court date on a retail theft charge, became one of an estimated 50 women who give birth every year while in the custody of the Cook County Jail.
Shackling women during labor is illegal; Illinois became the first state to ban the practice in 1999, and nine other states have followed suit. But more than 20 former jail inmates, including Walton, have filed lawsuits since 2008 against the Cook County sheriff's office, which runs the jail, alleging that they were handcuffed by the wrist or shackled by the leg while giving birth. Most of these women, according to their attorney, had been arrested for nonviolent crimes and were awaiting trial. Last month, U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve granted the litigation class-action status.
In Illinois, the first movement against shackling came in 1999, after a former inmate named Warnice Robinson testified before a group of female legislators, explaining how, while pregnant and imprisoned for shoplifting, she had been shackled to a hospital bed through seven hours of labor. "The women legislators kind of expressed disbelief because it was so horrifying," recalled Gail Smith, director of Chicago Legal Advocacy for Incarcerated Mothers, who had helped organize the day's testimony. "There was a minor disruption, because the women who had been formerly incarcerated started shouting, 'Believe her!'"
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