Formerly Incarcerated Women Lobby Legislators for Dignity for Pregnant Women in Prison

The Delegation joined Rep. Jones, Sen. Pizzo and Rep. Mercado at a press conference in support of the Tammy Jackson Act for Incarcerated Pregnant Women

The Delegation joined Rep. Jones, Sen. Pizzo and Rep. Mercado at a press conference in support of the Tammy Jackson Act for Incarcerated Pregnant Women 

Members of the Dignity Coalition meet with Rep. Shevrin Jones

Tallahassee, FL — Dignity Florida, a coalition of partners from across the state of Florida that believe in dignity for women and girls who are incarcerated in prisons and detention facilities, hosted a press conference at the State Capitol Rotunda on Tuesday, January 21 at 12:00 p.m. The press conference was part of a two-day convening with a delegation of formerly incarcerated women and supporters at the Capitol in support of the Tammy Jackson Act (HB 1259/SB 852).

“When we talk about legislation and change surrounding incarcerated pregnant women, we must ensure that directly impacted, formerly incarcerated women and girls are leading and centered in that conversation,” said Valencia Gunder, Dignity Florida Campaign Manager and Campaign Director for the New Florida Majority. “We are proud of the Tammy Jackson Act’s incredible bipartisan support. The population of incarcerated women has increased by 700% in the United States in the last decade and it is important that they are safe, protected and treated with decency, dignity, and respect while in these facilities.”

To date, the bill has passed unanimously through its first Senate committee. In the coming weeks, the bill will make its way through the House, and on to its second and third Senate committee stop.

Rep. Shevrin Jones (D-Broward), Sen. Jason Pizzo (D-Miami-Dade) and Rep. Amy Mercado (D-Orlando), primary sponsors for the Tammy Jackson Act, each expressed rousing support for HB 1259/SB 852 in their remarks as they stood in solidarity with dozens of formerly incarcerated women and supporters at the press conference. Sen. Pizzo remarked “On the Senate side, there was a unanimous ‘yes’ from everyone in the first committee and we expect the same support on the House side. This is decency. This is dignity.” Rep. Jones stated, “If you heard the stories, as a human being, you would cringe to hear what women are forced to endure. Tammy Jackson is not the only woman; Kenzi Dunn was incarcerated in an Osceola County Jail when she miscarried her baby into a toilet and was not given any medical attention. No one deserves this treatment.” Rep. Mercado said “Tammy did not receive the dignity and childbirth that all women deserve. Therefore, it is imperative to protect every woman who chooses to give birth regardless of who they are or where they are.”

Jacqueline Cooney, Dignity Coalition Member applauded Rep. Jones, Rep. Mercado, and Sen. Pizzo for their early support of the legislation. “As the child of a formerly incarcerated woman, it was a traumatic experience to be ripped away from my mother. So imagine how a toddler would feel,” said Cooney. “A mother and her child deserve the chance to bond and learn from one another. These women are more than prisoners, they are mothers first and if changes are not made, their children will repeat the cycle.”

Pregnant women don’t have a choice or control over when they give birth, and subjecting them to give birth in solitary confinement is inhumane, unsafe and cruel for the mother and her child. Currently, Florida has the second highest incarceration rate for women in the United States, and yet, women’s needs are not being met. Ensuring that incarcerated individuals, including those who are pregnant, are safe, healthy and treated with dignity, especially during labor, is the responsibility of the state.

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