North Carolina to stop shackling pregnant inmates during labor
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North Carolina’s prison system will no longer shackle pregnant inmates to their hospital beds while they are in labor.

Prisons director Kenneth Lassiter signed a new policy on Monday to end the use of leg or wrist restraints on pregnant inmates who are giving birth, The News and Observer reported.

The inmate will still be handcuffed during transportation to the hospital, as long as she could protect herself or the fetus if she were to fall.

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Once a female inmate begins to have contractions, the new policy will require the supervising officer must take the restraints off unless she presents “an immediate, credible risk of escape.”

Handcuffs or restraints are not to be used during the inmate's initial bonding with her newborn during breastfeeding or skin-to-skin contact, the News and Observer reported.

The new policy comes during a global movement to offer female inmates better treatment. More than 20 states have passed similar laws.

Two women who were shackled to their hospital beds in North Carolina filed complaints. 

A letter was sent to the Department of Public Safety from SisterSong, a group that promotes reproductive rights for women of color.

There were 81 inmates who delivered babies while incarcerated in North Carolina last year, The News and Observer reported.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has long opposed the use of restraints during labor, saying it puts the health of the woman and fetus at risk.

“Physical restraints interfere with the ability of health care providers to safely practice medicine by reducing their ability to assess and evaluate the mother and the fetus and making labor and delivery more difficult,” the group stated in 2011.