RALEIGH, N.C. - The N.C. House has unanimously approved legislation that addresses the health needs of incarcerated women and their children. HB 608, “Dignity for Women Who Are Incarcerated,” codifies standards of perinatal care, restricts the cruel practice of shackling people who are pregnant, and prioritizes incarcerated women’s health.
In addition to limiting the use of restraints during pregnancy and childbirth, the bill outlines nutritional provisions for those who are pregnant, ensures incarcerated people’s access to menstrual products, and expands opportunities for children to visit and have physical contact with parents who are incarcerated.
“This law is needed to protect incarcerated people who experience dehumanizing, demeaning, and demoralizing practices that continue the disgraceful legacy of violating Black women’s reproductive rights and dignity,” said Kristie Puckett-Williams, the Statewide Campaign for Smart Justice Manager of the ACLU of North Carolina.
Black North Carolinians are disparately impacted by the current standards that deny the dignity and humanity of those who are incarcerated. Black people represent roughly 23% of the general population in North Carolina but account for approximately 52% of the prison population.
“This bill should not be necessary. It is sad that we have to ask lawmakers to affirm the dignity and humanity of incarcerated people. It took years of advocacy by incarcerated people who have endured unspeakably traumatic experiences while pregnant to get to this point today,” said Puckett-Williams. “We know there are currently nearly 30 pregnant women in N.C. prisons, and countless unknown in jail, with various experiences, but we lift up and anticipate their needs with this bill.”