Gov. DeSantis signs ‘Tammy Jackson Act,’ aiding pregnant women in prison, into law

Advocates with Dignity Florida pushed the Legislature earlier this year to boost support for pregnant inmates. Credit: Danielle J. Brown

Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed a bill that promises pregnant women in prison will receive adequate medical attention and dignity.

HB 1259, also known as the “Tammy Jackson Act,” was filed by Rep. Shevrin Jones, a Democrat who represents part of Broward County, and Rep. Amy Mercado, a Democrat representing part of Orange County. The governor signed it on Tuesday.

“At the end of the day, all people — including those in our correctional facilities — need to be treated with dignity and respect. Access to proper medical attention ought to be a human right, and this bill is the next step on that path,” Jones said in a written statement.

The law will take effect on July 1.

Jackson was denied medical attention while in labor in an isolation cell in Broward County, as the Florida Phoenix reported in January. After seven hours of labor, she delivered her baby, by herself, in April 2019.

The new law calls for incarcerated women who go into labor to be immediately transported to medical facilities and receive proper care. The bill also says pregnant inmates must not be placed involuntarily under restrictive housing.

The law continues legislative efforts to improve conditions for women behind bars. In 2019, Jones and Mercado pushed a separate bill through the Legislature to ensure that incarcerated women get access to adequate sanitation and hygiene products.

“I am proud of the work we’ve done unanimously passing the 2019 and 2020 Dignity for Incarcerated Women bills, and seeing both signed into law,” Jones said.

Much of the advocacy for the Tammy Jackson Act came from Dignity Florida, a coalition of formerly incarcerated women, their families, and advocacy organizations. The bill received bipartisan support during the 2020 legislative session.

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.