Bill limiting the use of solitary confinement for pregnant inmates signed by Gov. DeSantis

It will require prison officials to show cause for placing a pregnant prison in solitary confinement.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill Tuesday that will vastly limit the use of solitary confinement for pregnant inmates in Florida.

The measure, HB 1259, is also known as the “Tammy Jackson Act,” named after a prisoner who gave birth last year after being placed in an isolated jail cell in Broward County.

While incarcerated, Jackson said she had complained of contractions overnight. Yet seven hours later, she delivered the child without being taken to the hospital.

The House bill was sponsored by Rep. Shevrin Jones of Broward County and Rep. Amy Mercado of Orange County.

It will require prison officials to show cause for placing a pregnant prison in solitary confinement.

It will also require that a pregnant prisoner be observed by a correctional officer at least every hour.

“A pregnant prisoner…may be involuntarily placed in restrictive housing only if the corrections official of the correctional institution makes an individualized determination that restrictive housing is necessary to protect the health and safety of the prisoner or others or to preserve the security and order of the correctional institution and that there are no less restrictive means available,” the House bill reads.

The corrections official must then write a report explaining the reasoning for using solitary confinement and why a less restrictive means was not available. The report must also note if “the individual overseeing prenatal care and medical treatment at the correctional institution objects to the placement.”

Should a pregnant prisoner be placed in solitary, the measure mandates a health care professional visit the woman once every 24 hours.

“If the prisoner has passed her due date, she must be admitted to the infirmary until labor begins or until the treating obstetrician makes other housing arrangements,” the bill continues.

The measure also provides more rights and privileges to pregnant inmates.

“A pregnant prisoner who has been placed in the infirmary must be provided the same access to outdoor recreation, visitation, mail, telephone calls, and other privileges and classes available to the general population unless the individual overseeing prenatal care and medical treatment at the correctional institution determines that such access poses a danger of adverse clinical consequences for the prisoner or others and documents such determination in the prisoner’s medical file,” the measure includes.

Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado covers news out of the Florida State Capitol. After a go with the U.S. Army, the Orlando-native attended the University of Central Florida and earned a degree in American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. He'd love to hear from you. You can reach Jason by email ([email protected]) or on Twitter at @byJasonDelgado.

One comment

  • Edward Freeman

    June 24, 2020 at 12:32 am

    It is a small step, but at least it is in the right direction for once. It is shocking that prison officials are not required to show cause for placing any prisoner in solitary confinement. I do however understand that writing a report would certainly pose a massive hurdle for “prison officials” as most are barely literate. Kudos to Jones and Mercado, among just a handful of our legislators looking out for average Floridians and not just monied special interest.

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