Shackles too much, pregnant inmate says
Saturday, November 7, 2009
OKANOGAN — A pregnant inmate charged with first-degree murder is asking a judge to prohibit the Okanogan County Corrections Center from shackling her while walking for the remainder of her pregnancy, and when she gives birth.
Tansy F. Mathis, 30, is in her eighth month of a high-risk pregnancy, according to her Republic attorney, Stephen Graham.
Putting her in shackles risks the possibility that she will fall and hurt herself or her unborn child, court documents state.
Mathis is charged in Okanogan County Superior Court with three other defendants in the March 1 killing of 25-year-old Michelle Kitterman and her unborn child. Kitterman was pregnant when she was beaten, stabbed in her stomach, and left to die on a remote road south of Tonasket.
A lawsuit filed by Mathis in the same court Thursday claims jail officials will not ensure that she will not have to wear shackles when she gives birth to her daughter. She also claims that she’s had to wear shackles to doctor visits, walk long distances to the hospital entrance with leg-irons that restrict her movement to very short steps and have her hands chained to her sides, making her unable to catch herself if she trips and falls.
Mathis was arrested March 26, and has been in jail since, awaiting trial. She has no criminal history, the lawsuit said.
Court documents say she requires an operation due to a complication in the pregnancy.
In a declaration filed with the lawsuit, Graham said he asked Okanogan County’s Chief Corrections Deputy Noah Stewart to sit down with him and Mathis’ doctors to discuss the use of shackles during childbirth, but Stewart refused.
Stewart was not available Friday afternoon to comment.
The lawsuit also asks a judge to prevent the jail from posting male guards in her delivery room and during surgery, or from using any restraints other than handcuffs while she walks and is still pregnant.
The suit states that Amnesty International and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists have both said that women should not be restrained during labor because of the need to be mobile, and that the use of shackles to transport pregnant women to medical facilities can put the mother and unborn child at risk due to the potential of falling.
Mathis claims she told jail staff immediately after she was arrested that she was pregnant, but they did not believe her, according to a declaration she filed with the lawsuit. She claims it took more than two months to get a pregnancy test, which confirmed her pregnancy.
“Much of the care I received at the Okanogan County jail has been well-intentioned, and I appreciate that most of the jail staff has treated me decently and with professionalism,” the declaration concluded.
Graham asked for the case to be heard soon, due to the urgent nature of the matter.
K.C. Mehaffey: 997-2512
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