Court rules for woman who was shackled while giving birth


Juana Villegas [L] and Maggie Hernandez with her lawyer Elliot Ozment [R]

A federal judge has ruled in favor of a Nashville mother who triggered a national outcry after she was shackled during labor and after giving birth while in custody of the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office…

Nine months pregnant, Villegas was arrested July 3 and charged with careless driving and driving without vehicle insurance. She didn’t have a driver’s license. A check of Villegas’ immigration status found she had a previous deportation order to her native Mexico. Her water broke on July 5 and she delivered the baby at 1 a.m. on July 6.

In his decision Wednesday, Haynes wrote that Villegas was “neither a risk of flight nor a danger to anyone,” citing medical testimony. The judge concluded that shackling Villegas during the final stages of her labor and her post-partum recovery violated her civil rights…

She was separated from her newborn son for two days and was not allowed to have a breast pump or cream for lactating mothers in her cell…

The sheriff’s office declined to comment. In combating the lawsuit, it cited expert testimony on the danger of “illegal immigrants fleeing and engaging in illegal activities” to justify shackling the expectant mother to the bed…

Villegas, the mother of four U.S.-born children, has lived in this country for 17 years, returning quickly after a 1996 deportation to Mexico.

The fact of her undocumented status, of course, shouldn’t have had a damned thing to do with lousy treatment by Tennessee sheriffs. I hope the federal court throws the book at these thoughtless representatives of law and order.