QUESTION: finding a case against Arkansas prison & Correctional Medical Services about shackling prisoners in labor

question / pregunta: 

In 2003, Shawanna Nelson, a pregnant prisoner in Arkansas, went into labor and gave birth while shackled. She filed a lawsuit against prison officials and Correctional Medical Services to abolish the practice of shackling women while they are in labor. Supposedly, the Arkansas department of corrections compromised and is now using nylon restraints on laboring prisoners instead of metal shackles and an 18-inch chain.

Where would I find the name of the lawsuit she filed and how far it got in the court system before it was dropped/settled?


Answer posted by:
jim miller

The Google search: "Shawanna Nelson" arkansas site:gov gets 2 hits, including a Department of State report: The United States' Response to the Questions Asked by the Committee Against Torture, Geneva, Switzerland May 8, 2006 which states:

"Allegations of the misuse of shackles or other restraints in both federal and state prisons are investigated by the Department of Justice, and may be the subject of civil litigation in U.S. courts. For example, there is pending private litigation in Arkansas in the case of Shawanna Nelson. While the federal government is not involved in that case, following reports of this incident, the Department of Justice conducted an inquiry at the facility and asked the inmates about any other occurrences, and none were reported. We currently have a private Memorandum of Agreement to monitor the facility where Ms. Nelson had been held in Arkansas to make certain that no unconstitutional conditions exist for the inmates."

The other hit is a schedule of hearings from U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit which lists: DIVISION III 27th Floor Northeast Courtroom FRIDAY, MARCH 14, 2008, BEGINNING AT 8:30 A.M. BEFORE JUDGES RILEY, GRUENDER, SHEPHERD1. 07-2481EA Shawanna Nelson v. Larry Norris, etc., et al. 15 [seems to be 15 min. allotted for the Counsel's oral argument]. Larry B. Norris is the current Director of the Arkansas Dept of Corrections, per his message on their website.

Lexis gets 2 hits for "shawanna nelson" in News, including: The International Herald Tribune March 6, 2006 Monday "An ex-convict challenges shackling women in labor" BYLINE: Adam Liptak SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 5 LENGTH: 853 words. This mentions her current name: Shawanna Lumsey, but that gets the same 2 hits in Lexis, none more recent than 2006. Factiva, thought by many to be a better source of newspapers than Lexis, also seems to have no more information on this case.

I am having no luck finding a free official record of this case. The 8th Circuit Court search for case no. 07-2481, or case name Nelson, Shawanna says: "NOTICE: An access fee of $.08 per page, as approved by the Judicial Conference of the United States, will be assessed for access to this service. For more information, click here or contact the PACER Service Center at (800) 676-6856."

Jim Miller