A 34-year old mentally ill woman gave birth alone in a Broward County, Florida jail cell – even though the Sheriff’s Office knew she was nine months pregnant and did not send her to the hospital when she asked for help.
In the early morning hours of April 10, Tammy Jackson told guards she was experiencing contractions. It wasn’t until four hours later that someone in the sheriff’s office notified the jail’s on-call physician. During that time, no one contacted a hospital. By the time the doctor arrived, at approximately 10 a.m., Jackson had already given birth to a daughter – by herself, in her cell.
Outrageous and Inhumane Treatment
Jackson’s public defender wrote a letter on May 3 to Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony. In it, he described Jackson’s situation, noting she was left without medical assistance for seven hours even though she was bleeding. Jackson was forced to deliver her baby without medication and was completely on her own.
The lawyer called Jackson’s treatment “outrageous and inhumane,” and demanded an immediate review of the medical and isolation procedures of all detention facilities, so no one else would ever have to go through what his client endured. He adds that this “gross negligence” may affect Jackson’s “already fragile mental health” and that the jail both ignore Jackson’s health and put the life of her child at risk.
Booked Two Weeks Earlier
When Jackson was booked on March 27, jail personnel were well aware of the fact that she had a near-term pregnancy. In fact, she was put on medical monitoring, so everyone charged with her custody knew she was soon due to give birth.
Jackson had been arrested for cocaine possession in January and released, but was arrested again in March due to failure to report for pretrial services. Jackson was also charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, trespassing, and sleeping on a public street. The public defender describes her mental health issues as “significant.”
The facility in which she was jailed, North Broward Bureau, holds mentally ill and special needs inmates. From the time contractions started, at roughly 3 a.m., until shortly before 10 a.m., when the baby arrived, Jackson screamed for help. No help arrived, even though corrections officers were in earshot.
Baby with Appropriate Caregiver
Jackson was taken to the hospital after giving birth. A jail spokesperson said the baby had been placed with an appropriate caregiver, and that Child Protective Services investigators were notified of the situation. After the delivery, a doctor and two nurses from the facility’s medical contractor attended to the mother and child.
Medical records confirm the baby was full-term and not unexpected. As of early May, Jackson was still recovering in the hospital. The Broward County Sheriff’s Office announced it was conducting an internal investigation of the incident.
Pregnant Incarcerated Women
Jackson’s pregnancy in jail was certainly not an anomaly. According to a recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health, nearly 4 percent of women admitted to prison are pregnant, and in one year, inmates had 763 live births, 4 stillbirths, 46 miscarriages, and 11 abortions.
The author of the study says, “Pregnant incarcerated people are one of the most marginalized and forgotten groups in our country.” According to the study, it is not unusual for women to have complaints ignored or be forced to deliver their babies in their cells. That is shameful.
Inmates have the right not to be abused and the right to proper medical treatment. If you or a loved one has suffered mistreatment in jail or prison, you have legal options and may be entitled to compensation. CALL US at 866.836.4684 or Connect Online to learn how we can help you file a federal civil rights lawsuit.