Kemp signs law prohibiting shackling of pregnant inmates

Credit: Jason Getz / AJC

Credit: Jason Getz / AJC

Beginning this year, Georgia corrections officials will no longer be allowed to shackle pregnant inmates.

Gov. Brian Kemp signed House Bill 345 last week banning the practice at county and state jails and prisons. Corrections officials also would be banned from placing women in solitary confinement while pregnant or immediately after giving birth.

The law goes into effect Oct. 1.

House Health and Human Services Committee Chairwoman Rep. Sharon Cooper, a Marietta Republican, said she sponsored the legislation to end the "humiliation" pregnant women suffer when they're in police custody.

“House Bill 345 will restore a measure of dignity to those women facing childbirth behind bars,” Cooper said.

>> Bill Tracker: See which bills Gov. Kemp has signed, vetoed

The legislation would also prohibit corrections staff from asking pregnant women in their second or third trimester to squat or cough during strip searches. All vaginal exams would have to be done by a licensed medical professional.

While officials from the Georgia Department of Corrections and a representative for the state’s sheriffs departments said neither group has a policy of shackling, pregnant women told lawmakers it was done to them while they were incarcerated.

Activist Pamela Wynn told lawmakers she was routinely shackled during her trial in 2008 while being held in county jail in Lovejoy. When she was 20 weeks pregnant, she said she fell while shackled and miscarried.

HB 345 will only allow a pregnant inmate to be placed in wrist handcuffs in front of the body if corrections officials believe the woman poses a serious threat or is a substantial flight risk.