Another case of shackling female prisoners has sparked outrage. A pregnant Black woman was handcuffed and targeted with racist slurs during a “savage beating” in Florida, Benjamin Crump, a national civil rights attorney, said Monday.
Kirenda Welch, 36, was arrested June 29 on a suspended license charge and booked into Duval County Jail in Jacksonville. Catherine Thompson, a corrections officer, put four-point restraints on Welch’s wrists and ankles. Thompson then punched her in the face and stomach and hurled racist slurs including “Kunta Kinte” at Welch, investigators said. Thompson has since been fired and was arrested Thursday (July 5), News 4 Jax reported.
Other officers watched the brutality, including when Thompson pulled out pepper spray, Welch said.
The beating should be investigated as a hate crime by the State Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Department of Justice, Crump, who has represented Stephon Clark and Trayvon Martin‘s families, said at a a press conference. The incident highlighted the “illegal abuse of excessive force,” he said.
Surveillance footage will be released at some point pending the investigation, according to Jacksonville attorney Randy Reep. An open records lawsuits is expected to be filed by Crump, who also urged for training reforms for officers in Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
Thompson, who is still in a probationary period with the sheriff’s office, has been charged with misdemeanor battery and a misconduct felony.
The beating spotlights the inhumane and unsafe practice of shackling that seems to target pregnant Black women. Two North Carolina female inmates, who were not publicly identified, were shackled during their labor in January, according to Monica Simpson, executive director of reproductive rights organization SisterSong.