On Sept. 10, Gov. Roy Cooper signed House Bill 608, entitled "Dignity for Women Who are Incarcerated," which focuses on expanding the privacy of women in the prison system. It also mandates improved care for pregnant incarcerated women, unborn children and women in postpartum recovery.
Specifically, the bill limits the use of restraints on pregnant women, body cavity searches of women who are pregnant or in postpartum recovery and the placement of pregnant or recovering women in restrictive housing.
Cooper was very supportive of the reforms instituted by the bill, which he said were a great way to ensure that pregnant women remain safe while incarcerated.
“This legislation takes important steps to protect women who are incarcerated during and after pregnancy and labor,” Cooper said in a statement.
Sen. Amy Galey, R-Alamance, Guilford, stated that these limitations are designed to address some of the negative effects stress can have on pregnant women and the fetus that could be incurred during incarceration.
“(The bill) also addresses the harm that comes to the unborn baby from the stress hormones, such as cortisol, that flood the pregnant incarcerated woman during times she is shackled or having a body cavity search," Galey said.
The bill stipulates that the Department of Public Safety and correctional facility administrator must provide sufficient food and dietary supplements for pregnant incarcerated women as prescribed by a physician, physician staff member or correctional facility nutritionist. Hygiene products — such as sanitary napkins, underwear and menstrual products — must also be provided.
Training and technical assistance
HB 608 also instructs the Department of Public Safety to develop more intensive training programs for state prison employees dealing with incarcerated women, particularly those that are pregnant.