"This is an important step forward in ensuring the health, rights and dignity of people who are incarcerated. It is also a testament to the impact of grassroots organizing. By working to build strong alliances and mobilizing power from the ground up, we are able to create systemic change and work to achieve reproductive justice."
Monica Simpson, Executive Director, SisterSong
(Durham, NC) - Statement by a coalition of organizations working to end the shackling of pregnant people who are incarcerated in North Carolina state prisons after officials agreed to update the state policy:
"We are thrilled to share that after a campaign led by SisterSong in response to recent incidents of pregnant and laboring people being shackled, North Carolina s
tate prison officials just announced that they will make changes to the policy around the use of restraints.
Shackling people during and after childbirth is both cruel and unsafe. Leading experts in maternal, fetal, and child health care have made it clear that when someone is restrained it interferes with the ability of physicians to safely practice medicine and is demeaning and unnecessary. Shackling interferes with the ability to properly treat and care for people and to respond to crisis situations. This is a matter of life and death for a laboring individual and their child in these situations.
The new North Carolina policy says restraints should not be used 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 newborn. There is some discussion around use of the word 'active labor' and how that will be interpreted.
Advocates will continue to work to ensure the strongest version of the policy moves forward and to push for training of staff, so that the policies are consistently enforced.
With people of color overrepresented in the prison system, this issue falls hardest on people who already struggle with health disparities and higher rates of pregnancy complications and maternal mortality. This is a case where intersecting oppressions fall on women living on the margins.
Prisons, jails, and detention centers are sites of reproductive oppression where people experience sexual violence and indignity each day, where essential healthcare is often unavailable, and affirming care for transgender people is outright denied along with appropriate and safe housing for gender nonconforming individuals. To truly achieve reproductive justice, we must center and amplify the needs and voices of people who are pushed behind the wall by a broken criminal justice system and lack of social supports.
Prisons are places that cause real harm to individuals and communities. We need to reform the entire system and work to provide alternatives to incarceration; but, in the meantime, we can try to mitigate pain and suffering by pushing for changes that can help to provide more dignity and care to people who are incarcerated.
People's human rights do not end when they enter the walls of a prison. We will continue to work to ensure the humanity of every individual."
SisterSong North Carolina team members, Omisade Burney-Scott and Ash Williams and other coalition members are available for interview upon request.