Sistersong On North Carolina's Ban On Shackling Pregnant Inmates

Incarcerated pregnant women won’t be handcuffed during labor anymore.

Omisade Burney-Scott works for Sistersong, which advocates for reproductive justice for women of color. The organization sent a letter to the NC Department of Public Safety, after two inmates say they were shackled during labor. Two months later, the director of prisons announced the change in policy.

“I would consider that a small win, considering the fact that what we really want is a more expansive administrative change to the policy.” Burney-Scott explained. “Right now, the changes look like they don’t shackle people while they’re in labor. We would like for them not to shackle people throughout the entirety of their pregnancy, prenatal, labor and delivery, postpartum out to eight weeks, also during lactation and breastfeeding.”

Only 20 states have passed similar laws despite medical professional's strong opposition. Some senators have introduced the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act, which would ban shackling pregnant women in the U.S, and further protect women’s health in prison.

“I would like to see us go from administrative policy to legislative policy, because it has more teeth.” Burney-Scott stated. “And we still have to be diligent. Implementation of a new policy does not always impact practice immediately. It has to be a culture shift.”  

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