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A look at "Two Strikes" in Florida and childbirth behind bars

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Frontline PBS presents a two-part special looking at a little known two strikes law, and pregnancy in prison. This is a collaboration with The Marshall Project. We hear how a former West Point cadet received the prison sentence of life without parole. Also, how pregnant women in the most notorious maximum security women’s prison give birth and what happens to their newborns.

In Two Strikes, director and producer Ursula Liang introduces us to Mark Jones to gain an understanding of the disproportionate impact of Florida’s so-called “two-strikes” law, more formally called the Prison Releasee Reoffender law. The PRR results in people, like Jones, receiving mandatory maximum sentences for committing felonies within a few years of their release from prison. Often these crimes are robberies, burglaries or thefts in which no one is injured. Through the lens of Jones’ case, Two Strikes raises tough questions about crime, punishment and rehabilitation – and how harsh sentencing laws can mean that unarmed offenders end up incarcerated for life.

In Tutwiler we see what it’s like to give birth in prison and then be forced to say goodbye to your baby 24 hours later. FRONTLINE and The Marshall Project go inside Alabama’s Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women and gain an unforgettable view into the lives of incarcerated pregnant women.

Many of these women are survivors of domestic violence and have struggled with substance abuse disorders. Working with a group of doulas, they attend parenting classes, dream up names for their babies, and plan for how they’ll maintain their sobriety once they’ve served their time.

But nothing can fully prepare them for what’s to come. As one incarcerated woman says, “When you were locked up your whole pregnancy and it was just you and that baby, and then to walk away from the person that’s been there with you, it makes the strongest person break.”

Frontline: Two Strikes and Tutwiler - Tues., Sept. 5, 2023


Instagram: @frontlinepbs | YouTube: youtube.com/frontline


Alysia Santo is the producer of Tutwiler. She is a Marshall Project staff writer. She has investigated criminal justice issues including for-profit prisoner transportation, the bail industry, victim compensation and the sexual abuse of people behind bars.

Ursula Liang is the director and producer of Two Strikes. She is an award-winning director and producer with 25 years of experience in storytelling.

"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call833-877-8255, email thesource@tpr.org.

*This interview will be recorded on Tuesday, September 5, 2023.

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David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi