Tallahassee, FL — Yesterday, Governor Ron DeSantis signed the Tammy Jackson Act (SB 852/HB 1259, titled Restrictive Housing for Incarcerated Pregnant Women), Florida’s second Dignity for Incarcerated Women Bill, into law. The Tammy Jackson Act ensures pregnant incarcerated women are transported to an appropriate medical facility without delay, given proper medical care, and not placed in restrictive housing involuntarily while in labor.
The bill was written after Tammy Jackson was forced to give birth for seven hours in isolation in a Broward County jail. Introduced by Senator Jason Pizzo (D-Miami) in the Senate and Representatives Shevrin Jones (D-West Park) and Amy Mercado (D-Orlando) in the House, the bill received unanimous bipartisan support from the Florida Legislature and was backed by Dignity Florida, a coalition of partners from across the state of Florida that believe all women deserve respect, and healthy and safe conditions, even while incarcerated. Currently, Florida has the third-largest prison system in the United States, and yet, women’s basic needs and rights are not being met or respected.
“This law will end years of disgrace for women in Florida prisons and restores hope and faith to them and their babies. The Tammy Jackson Act’s passage into law demonstrates that we are moving in the right direction towards a more equitable Florida,” said Valencia Gunder, Campaign Manager for Dignity Florida and Campaign Director for New Florida Majority. “Though there is still much work ahead, I hope that every incarcerated and formerly incarcerated woman and girl in the state of Florida feels protected and uplifted.”
Waynesha Pye, a Dignity Florida Member, who was forced to give birth shackled, chained and tied to a bed while incarcerated, believes this law will change the lives of many expectant mothers who are incarcerated: “If I had the protections given by the Tammy Jackson Act then, my whole world would’ve been different. Even while incarcerated, I could’ve had the dignity and childbirth that all women deserve. I’m happy to know that no other mother in Florida will endure the pain I felt.”
“I’m proud to have filed and pushed for this transformative legislation,” said Senator Jason Pizzo. “It was the power of the Dignity Florida Coalition fighting for women that made this happen.”
Dignity Florida mobilized dozens of women through the 2020 legislative session in support of this bill. The coalition is formed by New Florida Majority, Cut50, the Miami Workers Center, Planned Parenthood Florida, and the Florida Advocacy Network of the Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, among others.