RALEIGH, North Carolina — The North Carolina Director of Prisons signed new policies Monday. The policy clarifies that correctional officers shouldn’t restrain pregnant inmates while they deliver a child.
State policy requires officers to remove shackles from women during active labor. But advocates say it doesn’t make clear what counts as active labor.
“Active labor” is one of a few exceptions to the prison system’s restraint policies. These generally require the restraint of inmates while outside a correctional facility or a secure transport vehicle.
A local advocacy group asked for the clarification after hearing a disturbing report. It said that two inmates had been shackled during labor and delivery at a local medical facility in January.
Advocates for Pregnant Inmates Laud the New Policy
Omisade Burney-Scott is the director of strategic partnerships and advocacy for SisterSong. SisterSong is a group that focuses on reproductive rights for women of color. She said her organization got limited information about the incidents. Burney-Scott said she didn’t have the women’s names or the dates of their deliveries. However, the tip was worrisome enough for her group to reach out to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety.
“To be shackled throughout your pregnancy is a violation of your human rights,” said Burney-Scott.
The state policy says officers should not use restraints in many circumstances. These circumstances include when women are in labor at the onset of contractions, during delivery, post-partum recuperation, during inductions, transportation for C-section, and initial bonding with the newborn.
SisterSong wants an end to shackles on women during any stage of pregnancy.
“Throughout the entire pregnancy, so during prenatal care, labor and delivery, postnatal, out to eight weeks and during breastfeeding,” Burney Scott said.
DPS, in a statement Monday to WRAL News said, “The Department of Public Safety, Division of Prisons takes very seriously the health and well-being of all individuals confined within our facilities and appreciates the advocacy groups bringing to our attention their concerns regarding policies and practices specific to pregnant inmates.”
“I really hope that this is the start of a movement to address the treatment of people who are incarcerated in North Carolina,” said Susanna Birdsong, with the ACLU NC.
The policies also say should an officer use restraint during delivery, the Associate Warden for Custody should be notified as to why.