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State To Revise Pregnant Inmate Restraint Policy

A silhouette of a young pregnant woman.
Sarah Zucca

North Carolina is revising its policy on restraining pregnant inmates during childbirth. The current rules prohibit restraining a woman during the delivery of a child but are ambiguous about when delivery technically begins.

That lack of clarity has caused confusion among state employees who supervise inmates during childbirth and while being transported to a hospital, according to Pamela Walker with the Department of Public Safety.


The state is currently consulting with multiple federal corrections agencies to design a new clarified policy.


“We’re hopeful the revised policy will balance the well-being and the safety of the pregnant inmate along with the safety and security of our officers, medical staff and the public at large,” Walker said.   


The state consolidates most pregnant inmates at the North Carolina Correctional Institute for Women in Raleigh. These female inmates are typically restrained while being transported to an offsite hospitals to give birth, according to Walker.


That practice is also currently under review.    


The state’s policy came under scrutiny when the Atlanta-based reproductive-rights group SisterSong filed a complaint on behalf of two female inmates who were shackled in recent weeks.


As of last week, 50 pregnant women were in state custody.


The new policy is expected to be adopted in the next few weeks.

James Morrison is a national award-winning broadcast reporter with more than seven years experience working in radio and podcasts. His work has been featured on NPR, Marketplace, Here & Now and multiple other radio outlets and podcasts. His reporting focuses on environmental and health issues, with a focus on the opioid epidemic and sustainable food systems. He was recognized with a national award for a story he reported for NPR on locally-sourced oyster farming. He also received a national award for his daily news coverage of firefighters killed in the line of duty. A podcast he produced about the fall of Saigon during the Vietnam War was accepted into the Hearsay International Audio Arts Festival.
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