Restraints will no longer be used on pregnant inmates; Gov. McMaster signs ‘women’s dignity bill’ into law

South Carolina News

COLUMBIA, SC (WCBD)- South Carolina was one of only a handful of states that did not prohibit the use of restraints on pregnant inmates. But Thursday, Governor Henry McMaster’s signature on a bill changed that.

South Carolina lawmakers have been working over the years to reform the state’s prison system; from sentencing to the treatment of inmates.

Recent controversy surrounding the shackling of an inmate during childbirth prompted those measures to be taken a step further.

“It’s a very physical process and mental and emotional process. And having physical restraints on you during that process makes it drastically more restrictive literally, which creates greater risks for the mother and the baby,” explained Ann Warner with the Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network.

Governor Henry McMaster signed the “women’s dignity bill” into law, prohibiting the restraint of a female inmate who is pregnant, in labor, or in post postpartum recuperation.

Representative Pat Henegan cosponsored the bill. “Your hormones change so much and I think that is a major problem; the anger feeling, the stress. and I don’t think people realize shackling isn’t the thing you do. They need to get someone in there to counsel them and tell them it’s going to be ok.”

The law also requires a new mother to have time for skin to skin contact with their newborn baby.

Representative Nancy Mace has been a big advocate of the reform. Mace explained why the change is necessary for the protection fo the mother and child. “It gives the children that they are giving birth to, who may otherwise have a terrible start to life, a better start. Those moments during labor and right after are so important to the health and well being and that infant this goes a long way.”

According to SC Department of Corrections, there are 4 inmates currently pregnant.

The law also limits the searches on female inmates done by male officers, makes sure there are enough feminine hygiene products in a facility, and prohibits the placement of pregnant inmates in restrictive housing units.

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