A Black mother is suing a Florida jail after she says staff members ignored her calls for help and left her to deliver her child in a cell. The baby girl, Ava Daniels, later died at a local hospital, News 4 Jax reported. Erica Thompson said during a press conference that she was six months pregnant, having contractions, and planning to go to the hospital when deputies arrested her on Aug. 9 at her mother’s house on charges of driving with a suspended license and lying to officers.
Thompson said even though she couldn’t stand upright because of the pain, a nurse cleared her for booking in the Alachua County Jail. “They gave me Gatorade because they said that would stop my contractions because I was just dehydrated,” Thompson told the television station.
Despite her requests to go to the hospital, Thompson said she was taken to her cell “screaming and crying and begging them to help me.” “I really thought I was about to die,” she said during the press conference.
“If there was proper medical care, this baby could have been saved,” attorney Natalie Jackson, who’s representing Thompson, told News 4 Jax.
The jail has released still photos from surveillance video to the television station, but civil rights attorney Ben Crump tweeted on Friday that he wants the video itself to be released. “We have filed a lawsuit to demand accountability and transparency!” Crump said in the tweet. “The jail MUST release the tape from the time Thompson spent in jail to show how staff violated state law!”
The specific law Crump is referring to is the Tammy Jackson Healthy Pregnancies for Incarcerated Women Act, which went into effect last July. The Florida Senate maintains in a bill summary that:
”The bill provides that a pregnant prisoner may be involuntarily placed in restrictive housing if the corrections official of the correctional institution makes an individualized determination that such housing is necessary to protect the health and safety of the pregnant prisoner or others or to preserve the security and order of the institution and there are no less restrictive means available.
The bill requires the corrections official to write a report after placing a pregnant prisoner in restrictive housing stating the individualized reason restrictive housing is necessary, the reason less restrictive means are not available, and whether a qualified healthcare professional at the correctional institution objects to the placement. The corrections official must provide a copy to the pregnant prisoner within 12 hours of placing the prisoner in restrictive housing.
The bill requires a pregnant prisoner placed in restrictive housing to be seen by a qualified healthcare professional at least once every 24 hours and observed by a correctional officer at least once every hour. The pregnant prisoner also must be housed in the least restrictive setting consistent with the health and safety of the pregnant prisoner and given a medical treatment plan developed and approved by a qualified healthcare professional at the correctional institution if the pregnant prisoner does not already have such a treatment plan in place.”
“We understand that this is the first test of the state law known as the Tammy Jackson Act to see if they’re going to hold detention centers accountable,” Crump said.
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