Jailed on Cocaine Possession Charges, Mentally Ill Woman Forced to Give Birth in Isolation Cell

By Venus Upadhayaya, Epoch Times
May 7, 2019 Updated: May 7, 2019

A mentally ill woman in prison on cocaine possession charges was forced to give birth in an isolation cell last month as her cries for help were allegedly ignored.

Public Defender Howard Finkelstein wrote a letter about the incident to Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony alleging that jail inmate Tammy Jackson started complaining about contractions to staffers at 3:16 a.m. on April 10 and by 10 a.m. she gave birth to her daughter all alone, reported the Miami Herald.

“She was forced to deliver her baby alone,” Finkelstein wrote in the letter, requesting that medical and isolation practices at all Broward County detention facilities be reviewed.

The Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) told the Herald that it learned about the birth only after two days had passed.

“A Well Path medical team, including a physician and two nurses, attended to the mother and child. Child Protective Investigations Section was notified, and the baby was placed with an appropriate caregiver,” BSO spokesperson Gina Carter wrote in an email to MH.

Jackson, 34, was arrested and booked on cocaine possession charges on March 27 and was released but was arrested again after she failed to appear for pretrial services. Charges against her included trespassing, sleeping on a public street, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Finkelstein alleged that since the day of her arrest, the BSO knew about Jackson’s pregnancy and in order for her medical condition to be monitored, she was placed in an infirmary.

Two weeks after her arrest she began started feeling contractions and sought help. According to Finkelstein, instead of helping her and carrying her to a hospital, the jail staff tried to reach an on-call physician.

“Not only was Ms. Jackson’s health callously ignored, the life of her child was also put at grave risk,” he wrote.

Chief Assistant Public Defender Gordon Weekes told MH that the mother is still in custody but is recovering in a hospital.

“Just imagine going through the trauma of delivering a baby, screaming for help, people are within earshot, and no one comes to your aid from 4 a.m., when the contractions start, until 10 a.m.,” said Weekes. “All the while knowing people are in earshot.”

Weekes didn’t provide any information about Jackson’s mental illness but said that it is “significant.”

“It is unconscionable that any woman, particularly a mentally ill woman, would be abandoned in her cell to deliver her own baby,” Weekes wrote. “Your staff did not protect either Ms. Jackson or her child. Despite their neglect and callous indifference, both Ms. Jackson and her child survived. It remains to be seen how this gross negligence will affect Ms. Jackson’s already fragile mental health.”

People in Isolation Cells in the United States

According to a survey of 40 state prison systems for the fall of 2015 by the Center on Sentencing and Corrections, there are a total of 1,458 women and 59,048 men in solitary confinement across the country.

“Use of solitary confinement was largely discontinued in the United States in 1890 when the Supreme Court ruled that it led to mental deterioration and resulted in no rehabilitation of those incarcerated,” said the Solitary Fact Sheet of Princeton Spear.

“The practice was re-implemented in the 1980s and 1990s as part of the so-called ‘War on Drugs.'”

Those with mental illnesses can also be placed in isolation cells in many prisons.

Follow Venus on Twitter: @venusupadhayaya
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