Nevada board OKs policies to deal with pregnant inmates

CARSON CITY — Two new policies detailing how Nevada Department of Corrections staff deal with pregnant inmates were approved Tuesday by a state board.

The Board of State Prison Commissioners approved the administrative regulations that were developed following an incident with a pregnant inmate who had her ankles shackled in 2011 during an ambulance ride to give birth to her baby in Las Vegas.

The inmate, Valerie Nabors, and the American Civil Liberties of Nevada sued the state over the incident. The Board of Examiners approved a $130,000 settlement in the case in February.

The new regulations were the result of discussions with the ACLU, and were supported at the meeting by Allen Lichtenstein, ACLU general counsel.

Corrections Director Greg Cox said the regulations deal primarily with staff training and should help ensure that there are no similar incidents in the future.

“The training is a critical component of it,” he said.

The department typically has between eight and 18 pregnant inmates at any given time, Cox said.

The first regulation restricts the use of restraints on inmates who are pregnant, in labor, or delivering a baby. Only handcuffs may be used on a pregnant inmate and no restraints may be used once an inmate is in labor or in post-partum recovery, unless she is a “serious and immediate threat of harm” to herself or others or a “substantial flight risk.”

The second establishes a program to allow inmates who have recently delivered babies access to a breast pump to provide nutrition to their children.

The ACLU said the breast pump program is among the first of its kind in the country.

The board, made up of Gov. Brian Sandoval, Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and Secretary of State Ross Miller, approved the new rules.

Sandoval said that if the regulations are complied with, there should be no further such incidents within the department.

“These regulations represent a new stage in the treatment of reproductive justice issues in women’s prisons,” said Staci Pratt, ACLU legal director. “Through this work, women need no longer face the terror of enduring leg shackles while in labor or delivery. In addition, we have assured that their newborns can have access to the health benefits of breast milk.”

The ACLU lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in June 2012, alleged that Nabors was “placed at serious risk of substantial harm” and suffered “inhumane treatment” that violated prison policy, state law and her constitutional rights.

Nabors was ankle-shackled after she went into active labor and was placed in shackles 10 minutes after giving birth. Prison officials also confiscated the breast pump that was medically prescribed to Nabors.

Nabors, who lives in Clark County, was released from the Florence McClure Women’s Correctional Center in May 2012 after she completed a 12- to 30-month sentence for attempted grand larceny, a nonviolent crime. She was not considered a flight risk.

Nabors faces further legal troubles, however. An October 2013 criminal complaint out of Las Vegas Justice Court charged her and two others with trafficking in a controlled substance. She is scheduled to go to trial on the charges in May.

Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900. Follow him on Twitter @seanw801.