A bill that would set humane rules for the restraint of incarcerated pregnant women in correctional facilities across the state passed in a justice appropriations committee today, after weeks of not moving in the Florida House.
Members of the committee voted unanimously in favor of the bill, which is sponsored by state Rep. Betty Reed, D-Tampa. The bill would set standards that would prohibit the shackling of a woman in labor and create uniform and humane standards for all jails, prisons and detention centers in Florida. Advocates for women’s health have been supported the bill because it would protect the health of pregnant women who are incarcerated across the the board.
A representative from the Florida Department of Corrections said that the agency had a few concerns about the bill, but was working with Reed to make small changes. Both the department and the Florida Sheriffs Association said when the bill was first picked up that it was “unnecessary,” claiming that both jails and prisons already follow similar rules for the treatment of pregnant women.
Less than two weeks ago, however, the Sheriffs adopted a policy into the Florida Model Jail Standards that is almost identical to Reed’s bill.
There were some concerns in the committee that the law would be changing rules, which would affect safety procedures. Reed assured members that they are “not changing anything with the department’s security.”
Reed said having a woman’s hands and feet shackled so they cannot move while they are having a baby is wrong.
“It’s not a good policy for a woman that is in labor,” she said. “I want to protect the baby.”
The shackling bill has already passed in the state Senate.