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After giving birth in shackles, woman sues Milwaukee County

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Sandy Robles says prison guards treated her like an animal when she gave birth to her daughter in 2014, she vividly remembers the actions of one.

"She didn't want to talk to me," Robles said of the experience. "She didn't want to look at me. She was the one who didn't let me go in the room with my daughter."

Robles said her daughter was born with complications and was in intensive care, but she wasn't allowed to see her. Her attorney Theresa Kleinhaus said she was in jail for a misdemeanor retail theft crime but was forced to wear shackles during the entire birthing process, despite doctors asking if they could remove them.

"The guards always said 'We can't. It's policy,'" Robles said.

There was also an armed guard in the room. Robles said she was robbed of a special moment, and left in pain.

"I kept wanting to spread my legs, and I couldn't, so I had bruises and cuts on my arms," Robles said.

She is now one of several women with pending cases against Milwaukee County over the practice. Kleinhaus represents several and said 40 women gave birth in shackles in Milwaukee County between 2011 and 2017.

"A greater number of women are incarcerated than used to be. There's just been a trend toward incarceration over the last few decades, but a lot of the policies that correctional facilities use were really developed with male felony offenders in mind," Kleinhaus said.

More than 20 states have some sort of restriction on shackling pregnant women in general, but Wisconsin is not one of them. Milwaukee County passed an advisory resolution limiting the practice in 2017, and acting Sheriff Richard Schmidt said he would begin limiting the practice.

Robles says it should be banned altogether. 

"I don't want anybody else to go through that."

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