Pregnant Milwaukee Prisoner Who Gave Birth While Shackled Makes National News

Story in ‘Cosmopolitan’ features former Milwaukee County Jail prisoner who’s suing over treatment.

Here’s another story about Milwaukee that is going to a national audience.

Cosmopolitan magazine has published a story about a Milwaukee woman who gave birth to a son while shackled to a St. Francis Hospital bed in 2013, because she was an inmate of the Milwaukee County Jail.

The article tells the story of Melissa Hall, 29, who sued Milwaukee County in March, claiming it was the policy of the jail to shackle all inmates when they’re treated at hospitals. Her lawsuit claims that she was shackled every time she went to the hospital for prenatal care 

Hall was sentenced to a year in jail after she was convicted of vandalizing a car and making threats after drinking to excess on New Year’s Eve of 2012, according to the Cosmo article.

The article says that four Democratic U.S. senators have introduced a bill to ban the shackling of pregnant women in federal prison.

The article quoted a 2015 deposition in which then-Sheriff David Clarke “defended the practice of shackling, claiming that it is necessary to protect hospital staff and guards, and to prevent escape.

“‘So even if they are in the hospital bed — I don’t care if it is a pregnant female — they are going to be shackled or tied somehow to that bed,’ he said at the time. When asked if that included a woman in labor, ‘actually giving birth to a child,’ Clarke replied, ‘Sure.'” 




Tom Tolan is managing editor at Milwaukee Magazine, where he's worked since January 2016. He spent 24 years at The Milwaukee Journal and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as a copy editor, assistant metro editor and reporter. He lives in Shorewood.