North Carolina is expected to ban the shackling of incarcerated women during childbirth, according to a published report.
The state House passed House Bill 608 on May 10 with strong bipartisan support and sent it to the Senate, which is also expected to pass the measure in time for Gov. Roy Cooper (D) to sign it, according to North Carolina Health News, a nonprofit news organization.
Backers of the measure point not only to the human indignity of chaining nonviolent women during what should be a joyous time but also to the medical and administrative problems the practice can pose.
That’s why they’ve been developing guidelines for a standard level of care for pregnant women in the custody of correctional facilities across the state.
“There’s a lot of reasons why shackling is dangerous,” said Amanda Brown, a certified nurse-midwife who works exclusively with pregnant and postpartum people at the University of North Carolina Hospital in Chapel Hill. “There’s space for interpretation from hospital to hospital, which is really problematic.”
Advocates for incarcerated women are hoping the shackling ban will spur the Tar Heel state to return to previous efforts to improve their birthing and child-bonding experience. An initiative that would have provided expectant and pregnant women a separate child care center off prison grounds, where they could get off to a strong start with their baby for several weeks, was on the cusp of becoming a reality when the global financial system all but collapsed in 2008. The plan was scuttled amid the fallout.
Under the state’s current corrections policy, once they give birth, incarcerated new moms get to spend about three days with their newborns.
HB 608 would mandate that new moms be allowed to stay with their baby for as long as they stay in the hospital. It would also require that women be placed in correctional facilities within 250 miles of any of their children younger than 1 and allow for visits with newborns twice a week.
Moreover, it would set basic requirements for providing menstrual and nutrition products, limit body inspections by male officers and prevent putting pregnant or postpartum women in solitary confinement or isolation.
At first, the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association stood against HB 608, but the group came around after some changes were made to the measure, Health News reported.
“A child didn’t ask to come into this world,” said Terry Johnson, (R), the sheriff of Alamance County. “We need to keep that child’s welfare a top priority. There’s a bond between mother and child, and if that child is separated from his mother, their chances of making it good in the world, I would say, are slim to none.”
Many other states have also banned shackles during inmate childbirth.