Pregnant mentally ill woman was 'forced' to deliver baby alone in jail cell, Florida public defender says

A Broward County, Florida, public defender said Friday that a pregnant, mentally ill inmate was "forced" to deliver her baby alone in an “isolation cell” last month. 

The Miami Herald first reported that Public Defender Howard Finkelstein sent a letter to Broward  Sheriff Gregory Tony on Friday alleging that inmate Tammy Jackson was found lying in her cell by herself holding her newborn baby before 10 a.m. on April 10. She had allegedly complained of contractions at 3:16 a.m. earlier that day.

“She was forced to deliver her baby alone,” Finkelstein wrote in the letter, which requests an investigation into the incident.

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According to the Herald, Finkelstein's letter says Broward County Jail staff, as well as medical officials, knew Jackson was at the end of her pregnancy when she was booked in late March.

Finkelstein alleged that, instead of rushing Jackson to a hospital when she began complaining of contractions, staff reached out to a doctor who only made his way to the jail at 7:22 a.m. April 10.

He claims in his letter that Jackson was bleeding and alone in her cell until she gave birth without a doctor present.

“It is unconscionable that any woman, particularly a mentally ill woman, would be abandoned in her cell to deliver her own baby,” Finklestein wrote, according to the Herald. “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.”

Chief Assistant Public Defender Gordon Weekes also signed the letter.

Court records show Jackson was arrested in late March on cocaine possession charges and was later released, but did not report to pretrial services resulting in a warrant for her arrest. 

The Broward Sheriff’s Office said in a statement to the Miami Herald that it has launched an internal affairs investigation.

Spokeswoman Gina Carter told the publication in an email that, “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.”