For 6 hours and 54 minutes, Tammy Jackson was in labor, pleading for help and screaming in pain, all to no avail. She gave birth to her daughter, Miranda, at full-term in a jail cell in North Broward Bureau, Pompano Beach, Florida . The 34-year-old is homeless and had been jailed for drug possession and trespassing.
Public Attorney Howard Finkelstein and his colleagues took up her case after being contacted by Leave It Layron for the Local 10 News. According to the lawyers, at about 3:00 am on April 10, the mother-of-three (now four) began to experience contractions while still in her jail cell. She was 9 months pregnant at the time, detained in isolation, and should have been taken to a hospital prior to her due date. Other pregnant inmates who witnessed the event said they could hear her screaming in pain as the contractions came and went.
Delivered of her baby on the cold floor of a jail cell, all alone
According to the letter written by her defenders to Sheriff Gregory Tony of the Broward Sherriff’s office, at 3:16 am, the Jail staff reached out to the doctor on-call . It went straight to voice mail, so they left a message for the physician. The staff finally got through to him at 7:22 am, and he assured them that he’d check on Jackson upon his arrival at the jail. At 9:00am, the doctor was nowhere to be found and Jackson was still alone in her cell, bleeding and screaming.
“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,” Finkelstein wrote.
To confirm the credibility of the allegations, Jackson’s mother, Shirley Nixon, said her daughter and grandchild were not at the hospital. Speaking to Leave it Layron, the grandmother broke down in tears over her daughter’s painful ordeal. She wasn’t allowed to see the baby, Miranda Latrice Nixon because the mother was still being held in custody.
“I figured she was born in the hospital,” Nixon said. “They didn’t tell me none of this. Where were they?”
Mentally ill, pregnant, and abandoned
According to Nixon, Jackson is bipolar and schizophrenic.
“It is unconscionable that any woman, particularly a mentally ill woman, would be abandoned in her cell to deliver her own baby,” Finkelstein 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.”
The lawyers stated that the jail management was fully aware of the mother’s condition. It wasn’t pre-term labor or any sudden situation. Incarceration is not an excuse to infringe upon a person’s rights to medical care and assistance.
“Since the day of her arrest the previous month, the Broward Sheriff’s Office was aware that Ms. Jackson was pregnant. She had been placed in the infirmary specifically so her medical issues could be monitored and addressed,” the Public Defender wrote. “The birth was not premature or unexpected. 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.”
Gina Carter, Spokesperson for the Sherriff’s office says an internal investigation has been launched into the matter and that the newborn has been “placed with an appropriate caregiver.”
- Pregnant woman asked jail staff for help, lawyers say. Hours later, she was alone in a cell, holding her newborn. Elliot McLaughlin. CNN. May 6, 2019.
- Childbirth in the Main Jail. Howard Finkelstein. Local 10. May 3, 2019.
- After hours in labor, pregnant inmate gives birth alone in Broward jail cell. Layron Livingston. Local 10. May 3, 2019.