Thank you to the Sarasota Herald Tribune for publishing my letter this morning.
Recently, Gov. Rick Scott signed the Healthy Pregnancies for Incarcerated Women Act (SB 524) into law. I applaud Sen. Arthenia Joyner, Rep. Betty Reed, Gov. Scott, and all who championed this legislation.
The practice of shackling incarcerated pregnant women (the overwhelming majority of which were arrested for nonviolent crimes) is barbaric, inhumane, and dangerous to the health of the mother and the baby. It interferes with the work of her health care provider, and makes the labor process more painful and more difficult than necessary. It increases trauma, and subsequent post-traumatic stress and post-partum depression, both of which increase rates of recidivism, drug use, and suicide. Conversely, when a woman gives birth with dignity and compassion, attachment to her baby is facilitated, giving that baby the greatest chance of physiological and emotional success in those first critical hours of life.
I strongly encourage the Florida Legislature to examine a prison nursery system, much like the ones in place in New York, Nebraska, California, Washington, Ohio and Indiana. Healthy maternal infant bonding strengthens a healthy society.
Laura Gilkey, Sarasota
Gilkey is the co-hostess of "Maternally Yours" on WSLR 96.5.