Governor McMaster signs bill banning shackling of pregnant inmates
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster signed a bill banning jails and prisons from using leg, waist and ankle restraints on pregnant women and women in labor, news outlets reported.
“People go to prison as punishment, not for punishment.” McMaster said during the signing ceremony on Thursday. “We in South Carolina stand tall for the respect that we have for all people.”
Before the bill was approved, South Carolina was among only six states that didn’t ban shackling of pregnant inmates. The new law would also require pregnant inmates to only be handcuffed in front so they can try to brace themselves if they fall.
“It took a lot of people coming together on both sides of the aisle, even during the COVID-19 crisis to make this bill happen,” State Rep. Nancy Mace, the lead sponsor of the bill, said. “We’ve done an amazing thing for women who are in our correctional facilities. Life is a series of second chances, and every person should receive redemption.”
Only four of the nearly 1,160 women in state prisons are pregnant, according to state’s Department of Corrections.
The department ended the practice in state prisons in early 2019, but the new law will codify those protections and includes local jails, that because of shorter jail sentences and inmates awaiting trial are more likely to have pregnant prisoners.
The House passed the bill last year. The Senate made changes, including allowing inmates time out of restraints to have skin-on-skin bonding with a newborn, offering pregnant women special diets so their nutrition needs are met and banning solitary confinement of pregnant prisoners.