BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. – A mentally ill woman had to give birth alone in a Broward County, Florida, jail cell, almost seven hours after asking for medical assistance, her lawyers said in a letter to the sheriff.
Calling their client’s treatment “outrageous and inhumane,” public defenders Howard Finkelstein and Gordon Weekes Jr. said jail and medical personnel knew Tammy Jackson was full term when she complained early April 10 that she has having contractions and requested help.
The staff did not take Jackson to a hospital, the lawyers further told Sheriff Gregory Tony. Rather, at 3:16 a.m., they tried to contact an on-call doctor, who could not be reached until 7:22 a.m., according to the attorneys.
The doctor said he would check on Jackson when he arrived at the jail, the letter said.
An hour and 38 minutes later, Jackson told her lawyers, she was still in the jail cell by herself, bleeding, “and no urgency was demonstrated by your staff,” the lawyers wrote.
“Six hours and 54 minutes after asking for help, a (Broward Sheriff’s Office) tech notified medical staff that Ms. Jackson was holding her newborn baby in her arms, having delivered the baby without medication or the assistance of a physician,” the letter said.
The sheriff’s office has launched an investigation into the delivery, said spokeswoman Gina Carter. A doctor and two nurses provided Jackson care after she gave birth at the North Broward Bureau, Carter said, and the child “was placed with an appropriate caregiver.”
After providing a short statement via email, Carter said CNN would have to file an official records request to see the incident report filed after Jackson gave birth.
The North Broward Bureau houses minimum- and medium-security offenders and its main mission is to manage “the mentally ill, medically infirm and special needs inmate population,” according to the sheriff’s office.
Since Jackson’s arrest in April, her lawyers said, she had been placed in an infirmary for monitoring.
“The birth was not premature or unexpected,” their letter said. “Yet in her time of extreme need and vulnerability, BSO neglected to provide Ms. Jackson with the assistance and medical care all mothers need and deserve.
“Not only was Ms. Jackson’s health callously ignored, the life of her child was also put at grave risk.”
How the incident will affect the woman’s “already fragile mental health” remains to be determined, they lawyers said.
Other inmates heard Jackson’s screams during labor, CNN affiliate WPLG reported. Jackson’s mother, Shirley Nixon, told the station she did not realize her daughter, who she said is bipolar and schizophrenic, had given birth in a jail cell rather than a hospital.
“I figured she was born in the hospital,” Nixon said of her granddaughter. “They didn’t tell me none of this. Where were they?”
The grandmother told the station the baby girl’s name is Miranda Latrice Nixon.