Responding to a new bill introduced in the Florida Legislature, spokespeople for the Florida Sheriffs Association say that jails are not neglecting the health and safety of incarcerated pregnant women.

Isaiah Dennard, the jail services coordinator for the Florida Sheriffs Association, tells The Florida Independent that while regulations are not stipulated in the Florida Model Jail Standards, “specific jails each have their own policies protecting pregnant women.”

“This has been done for years,” he says.

Legislation was recently introduced that would set rules for the treatment of incarcerated pregnant women throughout their pregnancy and even into labor. Although the state Department of Corrections currently has a policy very similar to the proposed legislation, Florida jails do not follow uniform rules to protect pregnant women. The new bill would ensure that no matter where a pregnant woman is detained, she would receive the same protections and treatment.

When the legislation was introduced last session, the state Department of Corrections stated the bill was unnecessary because the department already had similar rules in place.

ACLU of Florida Policy and Advocacy Counsel Julie Ebenstein has said that while the department has uniform policies for prisons, jails do not. There are currently no policies specified in the Florida Model Jail Standards.

Ebenstein says the problems associated with shackling pregnant women “are more prevalent in jails” than in prisons. According to her, the proposed legislation “is not at odds with the Department of Corrections policy.”

However, the Sheriffs Association maintains that the absence of a written policy does not mean that no protections exist.

According to a statement from a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Association:

The Florida Model Jail Standards are just that “standards,” not agency wide policies and procedures. The Florida Model Jail Standards Committee has established state standards for inspections of local detention facilities. The development of operational procedures lies with each individual agency, not a policy decision by FSA through the Florida Model Jail Standards. Each Sheriff or County Jail Administrator have policies and procedures in place to address the use of, type, and when restraints are to be placed on “pregnant females.”

We feel the current system of standards and policies are more than adequate to protect inmates in these facilities. Florida Model Jail Standards are minimum standards, unlike accreditation standards that are at a higher level of jail operations you will see where specific “written directives” are either mandatory or non-mandatory in nature. FMJS can not be written to plan for all “what if” type of scenarios, individual agencies has to take the proactive approach in the development of their policies and procedures.

Dennard says that jails are already “taking care of these women.” He says the Association supports caring for the women in their custody.

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