Pregnant prisoner chained up in hospital 24 hours a day

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Alexander McLeish, whose daughter is a pregnant prisoner, is furious she was shackled while in hospital

 

A prisoner who was admitted to hospital after serious complications during her pregnancy was shackled to a security officer on a metre-long chain while she slept, showered and used the toilet.

Donna McLeish, 21, an inmate at Cornton Vale, the women’s prison in Stirling, was also placed under 24-hour surveillance by three guards from private security firm Reliance during a separate hospital visit despite the fact she was only able to walk using crutches at the time.

McLeish, who is seven months pregnant, was sentenced in January to two years in prison for assault following a glass attack on a woman at a nightclub. She told of being handcuffed to the Reliance officer when she was admitted to hospital in March with a blood clot on the placenta.

Gerard Sweeney, McLeish’s solicitor, yesterday confirmed his client was considering legal action against Reliance and said he feared for her health.

“When I visited Miss McLeish in hospital she was sitting on the bed and there were two Reliance officers, one male and one female. I was quite surprised to see this. Miss McLeish told me she was chained to one of the officers for a 24-hour period, including when she was showering, when the chain would be passed under the shower curtain. It was a big long chain more than a metre, attached to the officer’s wrist.

“When she was toileting she was still chained and when she was sleeping she was chained too. Obviously I thought that was just outrageous. I spoke to the officers and they confirmed it. Most startlingly, the security officers were present during clinical examinations male and female officers.”

 

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Professor Sheila Kitzinger campaigns to stop the shackling of pregnant prisoners

 

Reliance, which has been fined in the past for having prisoners escape on its watch, said in a statement yesterday: “We have recently modified our procedures in agreement with the Scottish Prison Service [SPS] to ensure that pregnant female prisoners are not handcuffed at any stage of their transportation to hospital or their stay in hospital.”

“We did have a case in March where a pregnant female prisoner was mistakenly handcuffed when a risk assessment showed that was unnecessary. The cuffs were removed, and an apology was made.”

McLeish is understood to have detailed her experiences in a letter to the SPS. The SPS said yesterday it was unable to say how long she had been kept in chains but conceded it was a mistake.

“Absolutely there was a mistake for which we have apologised,” said a spokesman, Tom Fox. “There are procedures for heavily pregnant females which state that they are not to be under the same sort of restraints as other prisoners.”

Yesterday McLeish’s father Alex told the Guardian he had seen his daughter attached to the chain.

He said: “I don’t want or expect her to have five-star treatment but I just would like her health and safety to be looked after and for her to have a bit of dignity.”

source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2008/apr/28/prisonsandprobation.justice?gusrc=rss&am

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