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Advocates demand an end to the shackling of people in labor
Published Monday, February 5, 2018

Statement by a coalition of organizations working to end the shackling of pregnant people who are incarcerated in North Carolina state prisons:

"The North Carolina Department of Public Safety prohibits the use of shackling during delivery and yet in recent weeks at least two people from North Carolina Correctional Institute for Women were restrained throughout their laboring process at a local medical center. This was in spite of the concerns of medical staff and the fact that it was in violation of NC Department of Public Safety written policies and legal precedent.

Shackling people during and after childbirth is both inhumane 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. That is why more than 20 states have passed laws that prohibit the shackling of people in childbirth and hospitals and prisons throughout the country have made it clear that this practice should be halted.

Among the states that have restricted shackling, none have documented instances of people in labor escaping or causing harm to themselves, the public, security guards or medical staff.  

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the nation's leading experts in maternal, fetal and child health care, have clearly stated their opposition to the practice of shackling. Medical experts agree that restraints can interfere with the birthing process where it is important for people to be able to ambulate during labor to help labor to progress, to alleviate pain and to be able to be moved quickly in the case of an emergency C-section.  In particular, complications from hemorrhages or preeclampsia often necessitate an emergency C-section.

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.  

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.

It is not just countless medical organizations that are opposed to shackling during labor, delivery and recovery.  The courts have found that shackling an individual during labor demonstrates deliberate indifference to a prisoner's serious medical needs - a violation of a long-established Supreme Court precedent protecting prisoners' 8th Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.

We are demanding that the policy be updated to be brought in line with the best practices and recommendations of health professionals and that training be provided to ensure that it is implemented consistently. This practice serves no public benefit. It does, however, risk harmful impacts on individuals and their children. It is not only bad health policy, it is a violation of individual's human rights."

Coalition to end shackling in North Carolina:


Charlotte Uprising!

Forward Justice

NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina


NC All of us of None

NC Black Women's Roundtable

NC Child

NC Statewide Police Accountability Network

SisterSong: National Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective

SpiritHouse: Participatory Defense



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