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Shevrin Jones, Amy Mercado join push to reduce solitary confinement of pregnant prisoners

Sen. Jason Pizzo has filed similar legislation in the Senate.

State Reps. Shevrin Jones and Amy Mercado are backing legislation that would reduce the use of solitary confinement for pregnant prisoners.

The measure (HB 1259) is being called the “Tammy Jackson Act.” The bill is named after a prisoner who gave birth last year after being placed in an isolated jail cell in Broward County. Jackson said she complained of contractions overnight. Seven hours later, she delivered the child without being taken to the hospital.

“Women within correctional facilities are already serving their sentences, and they should have every right to proper medical attention, especially during the sacred act of giving birth,” Jones said in a statement on the bill.

State Sen. Jason Pizzo has filed similar legislation (SB 852) in the Senate.

The measure limits the use of solitary confinement for women inmates who are pregnant.

“A pregnant prisoner may be involuntarily placed in restrictive housing only if the corrections official of the correctional institution, in consultation with the individual overseeing prenatal care and medical treatment at the correctional institution, determines that an extraordinary circumstance exists such that restrictive housing is necessary and that there are no less restrictive means available,” the bill reads.

There is also language requiring a check-in at least every eight hours to determine whether the prisoner is in need of medical care.

“If a pregnant prisoner needs infirmary care, a primary care nurse practitioner or obstetrician must provide an order for the prisoner to be admitted to the infirmary. If the prisoner has passed her due date, she must be admitted to the infirmary until labor begins or until the obstetrician makes other housing arrangements,” the measure says.

The bill is a follow-up of sorts to a bill these three lawmakers pushed last Session, dubbed the “Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act.” The bill ensures women inmates are provided with necessary hygiene products.

Valencia Gunder, who supported that 2019 measure via her group, Dignity Florida, says she backs this year’s effort as well.

“Incarcerated individuals, including those who are pregnant, are the responsibility of the state, so the state must ensure that the parent and child are safe, healthy and treated with dignity, especially during labor,” Gunder said.

“Giving birth can be a risky procedure, and the callous indifference to her needs puts her life and the life of her baby in danger.”

Dignity Florida is a coalition of formerly incarcerated women, their families, and advocacy organizations across Florida.

Written By

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to ryan.t.nicol@gmail.com.

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