AELE LAW LIBRARY OF CASE SUMMARIES:
Corrections Law
for Jails, Prisons and Detention Facilities


     Back to list of subjects             Back to Legal Publications Menu

Marriage/Procreation

     Monthly Law Journal Article: Prisoner Marriage, 2007 (10) AELE Mo. L.J. 301.
     Monthly Law Journal Article: Prisoner Procreation and Abortion Issues, 2007 (11) AELE Mo. L.J. 301.
     Monthly Law Journal Article: Shackling of Pregnant Prisoners, 2009 (12) AELE Mo. L. J. 301.

     A female prisoner was in county custody for a nonviolent offense when she gave birth to her son. She sued after her release, claiming that her federal civil rights were violated by her being shackled and restrained during labor as well as during postpartum recovery. A federal appeals court vacated and remanded the trial court's grant of summary judgment for the county defendants on most of the plaintiff's shackling claims, finding that the question of whether the U.S. Constitution allows law enforcement officers to restrain a female inmate while she is pregnant, in labor, or during postpartum recovery was one of first impression. In this case, the answer to that question depended on factual disputes about whether the restraint policy was justified that a properly instructed jury had to resolve. The appeals court rejected equal protection claims as no evidence of discriminatory intent was shown. Mendiola-Martinez v. Arpaio, #14-15189, 836 F.3d 1239 (9th Cir. 2016).
     A federal prisoner had a prostate operation performed by a doctor who was not a Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) employee. He later noticed that the amount of his ejaculate was reduced, and the doctor diagnosed him with retrograde ejaculation, advising that a specific medication should be prescribed to heal a hole opened up during the laser surgery, in order to prevent the prisoner's ejaculate from going into his bladder. The prisoner was afraid that without the recommended treatment, he might experience impotence. The BOP declined to provide the medication, taking the position that treatment of a sexual dysfunction is not "medically necessary." It also stated that medical providers should not talk to inmates about ejaculation, "since it is a prohibited sexual act." The trial court held that the prisoner's claims could survive summary judgment because the prisoner had alleged that retrograde ejaculation could make him sterile and that prisoners had a fundamental right to preserve their procreative abilities for possible use after their release from custody. A federal appeals court reversed, finding that the defendants were entitled to qualified immunity. No clearly established law guaranteed a prisoner's right to treatment for infertility, erectile dysfunction, or retrograde ejaculation. Michtavi v. Scism, #14-4104, 2015 U.S. App. Lexis 21553 (3rd Cir.).
     A female prisoner who was pregnant when she arrived at a county jail claimed that the jail employees were deliberately indifferent in failing to take a proper medical history, failing to respond to several requests for medical assistance, and failing to react quickly enough when she went into labor. As a result, she further claimed, her child suffered serious birth defects. She was taken to a hospital where she gave birth and then returned to the jail where she was transferred to another facility after four days. The trial court erred in dismissing the lawsuit for failure to exhaust available administrative remedies at the jail. Even had she been informed upon her return to the jail from the hospital that he had only four days to file a grievance, that time period would have been an unreasonable deadline to impose on a woman right after she gave birth to a severely impaired child. White v. Bukowski, #14-3185, 800 F.3d 392 (7th Cir. 2015).
 
     The U.S. Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, has ruled that there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage and that each state must also recognize such marriages legally entered into in other states. As a result, to the extent that prisoners have a constitutional right to marry, which they generally do, with very limited exceptions, that right now extends to entering into same-sex marriages. Prisons will now have to universally accommodate prisoners entering into same-sex marriages to the same extent as they now accommodate opposite sex marriages. Obergefell v. Hodges, #14-656, 2015 U.S. Lexis 4250.
    A pregnant woman was being held as an immigration detainee and classified as a medium-security inmate. She was restrained and shackled prior to giving birth and claimed that this violated her rights. A federal trial court granted her summary judgment on liability and a jury awarded her $200,000 in damages. A federal appeals court reversed, finding that summary judgment on liability had been improper. There were genuine material factual issues as to whether she had been shown to be a flight risk, as well as conflicting expert testimony about the alleged negative effects of shackling on pregnant inmates. It was also not established whether or not the officers involved in her restraint had any knowledge about a no restraint order. Villegas v. Metro. Gov't of Nashville & Davidson Cty., #11-6031, 2013 U.S. App. Lexis 4382, 2013 Fed. App. 59P (6th Cir.).
     The trial court should not have dismissed the claim of a prisoner that denial of his request for a conjugal visit with his wife violated his rights to religious freedom under the First Amendment and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. 2000cc et seq. by interfering with important provisions of his Islamic faith requiring him to marry, consummate his marriage, and attempt to father children. His claim, stemming from the denial of this request in 2008, was not time barred despite the earlier denial, under the same regulation of a similar request relating to his first wife in 2002. Pouncil v. Tilton, #10-16881 2012 U.S. App. Lexis 24039 (9th Cir.).
     A female prisoner suffering from cervical cancer had her ovary and lymph nodes removed during a radical hysterectomy, allegedly without her consent. A federal appeals court rejected her civil rights claim, however, finding no evidence of deliberate indifference to her serious medical needs. Her contention that the removals of the ovary and lymph nodes were not necessary because subsequent examination revealed that they were not cancerous was, at most, medical negligence or a mere disagreement with the medical treatment given, which was insufficient for a federal civil rights claim. Sama v. Hannigan, #10-40835, 2012 U.S. App. Lexis 2107 (5th Cir.).
     Because a county jail did not have the resources to adequately handle pregnancy-related medical emergencies, a pregnant minor stated a claim for deliberate indifference to her serious medical needs by alleging that personnel there failed to rush her to a hospital when she began having labor pains, and that she was not seen by a doctor until seven hours later. She was subsequently taken to a hospital, but then returned to the jail, where her baby was born, suffering various birth defects including severe mental retardation and cerebral palsy. Havard v. Wayne County, #09-1235, 2011 U.S. App. Lexis 17404 (Unpub. 6th Cir.).
     Rejecting claims that two deputies at a county jail were deliberately indifferent to the serious medical needs of a pregnant detainee who had used crack cocaine daily, the federal appeals court noted that the deputies knew that the detainee had been seen by a nurse at the jail who determined that her medical need was "not an emergency." The detainee later suffered a miscarriage, but the deputies were entitled to rely on the nurse's medical expertise in failing to take additional measures. The plaintiff failed to show that the deputies disregarded the risk to the health of her fetus with conduct that was more than gross negligence. Townsend v. Jefferson Cty., #08-15583, 2010 U.S. App. Lexis 6500 (11th Cir.).
     A prisoner claimed that her constitutional rights were violated when she was shackled to a bed while she was giving birth. A state corrections department director was entitled to qualified immunity from liability because he was not personally involved in the incident and had not established any policies to require or encourage the shackling of pregnant prisoners. A corrections officer directly involved in the shackling, however, was not entitled to qualified immunity, given that she stated that the prisoner, who was a non-violent offender, had not done or said anything to indicate that she was an escape risk or that she posed any other threat. There was evidence from which a fact finder could decide that the officer, in shackling the prisoner's ankles to opposite sides of a hospital bed during the final stages of labor, acted with deliberate indifference to her serious medical needs. She allegedly knew that the prisoner had severe pain, that the labor was risky, and that hospital personnel had requested that she be unshackled. The officer also allegedly failed to abide by administrative regulations requiring her to balance medical and security concerns in deciding whether to shackle the inmate. At the time of the incident, September of 2003, the prisoner's right to be free from unnecessary suffering was clearly established. Nelson v. Correctional Medical Services; #07-2481, 2009 U.S. App. Lexis 21730 (8th Cir.).
     When a Pennsylvania prisoner had informed correctional officials that he was already married, he was not entitled to an order allowing him to marry his fiancee. Further, in that state, if he entered into a valid common law marriage before January 1, 2005, he remained married, and would have to get a divorce before he could remarry. He could also seek, if he wished, a declaratory judgment concerning the validity of his alleged prior marriage. Lennitt v. Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, No. 231 M.D. 2008, 2008 Pa. Commw. Lexis 627.
     A pregnant prisoner brought to a hospital for labor, was kept shackled to the bed at all times, except when medical personnel requested that the shackles be removed. A federal appeals court ruled that the policy of shackling inmates while they received medical treatment did not constitute deliberate indifference to their medical needs, and the shackling policy was reasonably related to legitimate penological interests. Nelson v. Correctional Medical Services, No. 07-2481, 2008 U.S. App. Lexis 15270 (8th Cir.).
     Missouri Department of Corrections' policy of not providing transportation for inmates' elective, non-therapeutic abortion is unreasonable under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The court also rules, however, that elective non-therapeutic abortions are not a serious medical need, and that a prison's refusal to provide such an abortion is not deliberate indifference for purposes of an Eighth Amendment claim. Roe v. Crawford, No. 06-3108 2008 U.S. App. Lexis 1185 (8th Cir. 2008).     
     Pregnant female detainee presented sufficient medical evidence to show that she had a serious medical problem of prolonged amniotic leakage. which could lead to an infection and the death of her fetus. A jail facility commander was not entitled to qualified immunity, based on his alleged knowledge of this problem and his alleged deliberate decision to disbelieve all inmate complaints about medical care. The sheriff, however, was not shown to have had actual knowledge that jail policies were being implemented in a way that arguably ignored legitimate medical needs, and was therefore entitled to summary judgment. Goebert v. Lee County, No. 06-10606, 2007 U.S. App. Lexis 29513 (11th Cir.).
     Female prisoner's claim that delayed labor, caused by improper medical care, caused the stillbirth of her viable fetus was sufficient to constitute a "physical injury" to her satisfying the physical injury requirement of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1997e(e). That statutory provision, barring the pursuit of a federal civil rights claim for mental distress unaccompanied by physical injury, did not bar the prisoner's Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment claims in these circumstances. Clifton v. Eubank, No. 00-CV-2555, 418 F. Supp. 2d 1243 (D. Colo. 2006). [N/R]
    New York prisoner's application to participate in family reunion program was properly denied based on the heinous nature of his crimes (involving the brutal murder of his sister-in-law and a violent assault on her three-year-old daughter), along with his life sentence, which eliminated the need to preserve his family structure to promote future integration into society. Denial of a request for participation in such a program will be upheld if based on a rational reasons, since participation is a privilege rather than a right. Williamson v. Department of Correctional Services, 792 N.Y.S. 2d 719 (A.D. 3rd Dist. 2005). [N/R]
     Inmate's incarceration did not excuse him from compliance with court's procedural rules which apply to all litigants concerning obtaining service of process. Inmate's divorce action against his wife, which he filed while acting as his own lawyer, was therefore properly dismissed when he failed to obtain service on her. Hessmer v. Hessmer, 138 S.W.3d 901 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2003). [N/R]
     New York prisoner incarcerated for the murder of his first wife, who married his current wife prior to his incarceration, was entitled to further proceedings on his request to participate in a "family reunion" program with his wife and daughter, when no reason or factual basis was provided for the denial of his request. Bierenbaum v. Goord, 787 N.Y.S.2d 438 (A.D. 3d Dept. 2004). [N/R]
     While a prisoner had a fundamental constitutional right to marry, there was no duty on the part of a court clerk to travel to the prison to conduct a required oral examination to enable the prisoner to obtain a marriage license without personally appearing at the clerk's office, or to implement video conferencing so that the interview could be remotely conducted. In re Appeal of Coats, 849 A.2d 254 (Pa. Super. 2004). [N/R]
     Prison policy of requiring inmate to get a court order to obtain an elective abortion did not violate her constitutional rights. Victoria W. v. Larpenter, No. 02-30598, 2004 U.S. App. Lexis 8602 (5th Cir.). [2004 JB Jun]
     Ohio prisoner had a clearly established right to marry his girlfriend, but it was not clearly established that he had the right to affirmative assistance from correctional officials in obtaining a marriage license. Correctional officials were therefore entitled to qualified immunity from liability for money damages for initially failing to provide such assistance. Couple, who married following settlement of their federal civil rights lawsuit, were not "prevailing parties" entitled to an award of attorneys' fees when they did not obtain a judgment on the merits of their claim or a court-ordered consent decree. Toms v. Taft, No. 01-4035, 338 F.3d 519 (6th Cir. 2003). [2003 JB Nov]
     Parole rule which absolutely prohibited parolee traveling internationally to the Philippines to marry a woman with whom he had been corresponding did not violate his constitutionally protected right to marry or to travel, and was justified by the state's desire to avoid losing all right to supervise the parolee once he was outside the country. The rule did not absolutely prohibit him from marrying, but merely affected the timing or place of his marriage plans. Williams v. Wisconsin, No. 02-4233, 336 F.3d 576 (7th Cir. 2003). [N/R]
     Prison officials were entitled to qualified immunity on a claim for damages for postponing a prisoner's marriage to his fiancee for twelve months, since it was not clearly established that a delay of that length was unconstitutional. Lawsuit's claims for injunctive relief were moot, since prior restrictions on the fiancee's visits were lifted and the couple had been allowed to marry. Martin v. Snyder, No. 02-1135, 329 F.3d 919 (7th Cir. 2003). [N/R]
     Federal appeals court by 6-5 vote rules that a prisoner serving a sentence of 100 years to life plus eleven years had no constitutional right to provide his wife with a sperm specimen that she could use to be artificially inseminated. Gerber v. Hickman, #00-16494, 2002 U.S. App. Lexis 9749 (9th Cir.). [2002 JB Jul]
     Woman who pled guilty to providing a prohibited object to an inmate, a cryogenic sperm preservation kit intended to preserve her inmate husband's sperm, was not entitled, post-conviction, to the return of the confiscated seminal fluids. Wife was not entitled to equitable relief in the form of return of the seized property since she had "unclean hands," having bribed a correctional officer to smuggle her husband's semen out of the prison. U.S. v. Parlavecchio, 192 F. Supp. 22d 349 (M.D. Pa. 2002). [N/R]
     298:150 Federal appeals court rules that male prisoners have a fundamental constitutional right to procreate; prisoner serving a life sentence could pursue federal civil rights claim over denial of request that he be allowed to send his semen out of prison for artificial insemination of his wife. Gerber v. Hickman, #00-16494, 264 F.3d 882 (9th Cir. 2001).
     284:120 Female prisoner and her husband, who was allowed to attend the birth of their child after filing a federal civil rights lawsuit, were prevailing parties entitled to $5,743.67 in attorneys' fees and costs; hourly fee limits of Prison Litigation Reform Act did not apply since the husband was not a prisoner; lawsuit claimed denial was based on prisoner giving newspaper interview regarding prison conditions. Turner v. Wilkinson, 92 F. Supp. 2d 697 (S.D. Ohio 1999).
     284:121 Denying female prisoner access to abortion services violated her rights and constituted deliberate indifference to the serious medical needs of a pregnant prisoner. Doe v. Barron, 92 F. Supp. 2d 694 (S.D. Ohio 1999).
     272:119 A policy of discharging a prison employee for her intimate association with a state prison inmate was rationally related to a legitimate interest in prison security; policy did not improperly limit female guard's right to marry convicted felon who was the father of her child. Wolford v. Angelone, 38 F.Supp.2d 452 (W.D. Va. 1999).
     230:22 Inmate was not entitled to judicial order requiring warden to transport him to court clerk's office to sign marriage license, or requiring warden to allow clerk to visit prison to get inmate's signature. Leach, [State Ex Rel.,] v. Schotten, 653 N.E.2d 356 (Ohio 1995).
     237:135 New York prisoner had no constitutionally protected right to participation in conjugal visits with wife; denial of such visits on basis of wife's status as an ex-offender was not a violation of equal protection of law. Champion v. Artuz, 76 F.3d 483 (2nd Cir. 1996). [Cross-reference: Visitation].
     222:87 Refusal to allow New Jersey male prisoner to artificially inseminate his wife did not violate his constitutional right to procreation; security concerns and scarce resources adequately justified policy. Percy v. Dept. of Corrections, 278 N.J. Super. 543, 651 A.2d 1044 (1995).
     Federal appeals court rules that N.Y. prisoner, despite having participated in conjugal visit program at three prior prisons, had no liberty interest in participating in program at fourth prison; reject's prisoner's claim of a constitutional privacy right to conjugal visits. Hernandez v. Coughlin, 18 F.3d 133 (2nd Cir. 1994).
     Prison could require inmates who wished to get married to attend six premarital counseling sessions without violating prisoner rights. Hanselman v. Fiedler, 822 F.Supp. 1342 (E.D. Wis. 1993).
     N.Y. prison visitation regulations did not create a constitutionally protected liberty interest in conjugal visits, but court orders further hearings on whether denial of such visits violated inmate's right of marital privacy. Cromwell v. Coughlin, 773 F.Supp. 606 (S.D. N.Y. 1991). Prisoners have a constitutional right to marry, but prison officials may reasonably regulate marriages of inmates to further legitimate penological interests. Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78 (1987); Butler v. Wilson, 415 U.S. 953 (1974); Johnson v. Rockefeller, 365 F.Supp. 377 (S.D.N.Y. 1973).
     Bureau of Prisons' policy restricting inmate procreation, including artificial insemination of wives by male inmates is reasonably related to legitimate government interest in treating all inmates equally. Goodwin v. Turner, 908 F.2d 1395 (8th Cir. 1990).
     Sheriff was entitled to qualified immunity for alleged refusal of inmate's request to marry while incarcerated. Jackson v. Mowery, 743 F.Supp. 600 (N.D. Ind. 1990).
     Love may have blossomed behind bars for two inmates; but federal judge denies them permission to marry, stating reasons. Los Ang. Daily Jour., Vol. 103, No. 64, Sec. 1, p. 1 (March 29, 1990).

Back to list of subjects             Back to Legal Publications Menu