Dignity for incarcerated pregnant women legislation gets closer to becoming law

Democratic State Rep. Shevrin Jones, of Broward County. Credit: Screenshot, Florida Channel.

Legislation demanding reform in the treatment of pregnant inmates passed unanimously in the Florida House Judiciary Committee Thursday, making way for a full vote in the state House chamber.

HB 1259 is sponsored by Rep. Shevrin Jones, a Democrat who represents part of Broward County, and Rep. Amy Mercado, a Democrat who represents part of Orange County.

“No pregnant woman should have to have a baby alone, regardless of what her status is in society,” Jones said in his closing statement for the final Judiciary Committee vote.

This legislation is known as the “Tammy Jackson Act,” named after an inmate at the Broward County jail who gave birth in an isolation cell without medical assistance in April of last year.

The bill works to improve accessibility to medical care for pregnant inmates in Florida detention centers. It will also prohibit any Florida detention facilities from placing a pregnant inmate into restrictive housing unless necessary to protect the health and safety of the inmate or others. In those cases, a corrections official would be required to report the reason for restrictive housing.

The Senate companion bill is sponsored by Sen. Jason Pizzo, a Democrat who represents parts of Miami-Dade County. SB 852 has also passed unanimously in two of three committee votes.

Dignity Florida is a coalition that works towards maintaining dignity for incarcerated women and helps push for state prison reform.

Valencia Gunder, Campaign Director for Dignity Florida, is encouraged by the success of both bills making their way through session.

“They are showing that treating incarcerated pregnant women and girls with dignity and respect is not an issue of partisanship, but of basic humanity,” Gunder said in a written statement.

Danielle J. Brown
Danielle J. Brown is a 2018 graduate of Florida State University, majoring in English with a focus in editing, writing, and media. While at FSU, she served as an editorial intern for International Program’s annual magazine, Nomadic Noles. Last fall, she fulfilled another editorial internship with Rowland Publishing, where she wrote for the Tallahassee Magazine, Emerald Coast Magazine, and 850 Business Magazine. She was born and raised in Tallahassee and reviews community theater productions for the Tallahassee Democrat. She spends her downtime traveling to all corners of Florida and beyond to practice lindy hop.