The Dignity for Women Who are Incarcerated (Dignity Act) protects pregnant women in prison and jail from practices that put them and their unborn children in physical danger. It limits shackling and other harmful restrictions and ensures infants have proper medical and parental care before and after birth. The bill is supported by a wide variety of stakeholders, including the NC Sheriff’s Association, the NC Obstetrical and Gynecological Society, ACLU of NC, Disability Rights North Carolina, Conservatives for Criminal Justice Reform and NC Prisoner Legal Services.
HB 608 would require prisons and jails to limit the use of shackling after the second trimester, during labor, and in the six weeks after delivery. It would also formalize allowing women who have just given birth to bond with their newborn for the duration of time they stay in the hospital. The proposed bill would also mandate that women be placed in correctional facilities within 250 miles of any of their children under the age of one and allow for visits with newborns twice a week. Further, it would set basic requirements for providing menstrual and nutrition products, establish guidelines for body inspections that limit interaction with male officers, and prevent pregnant or postpartum women from being held in restrictive housing. Training for correctional officers would be required so they can support pregnant women’s physical and mental needs.
The bill passed the House on May 10, 2021 with unanimous support and is now parked in the Senate Committee on Rules and Operations.