BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. — The two Broward County jail officials have been fired and are accused of grossly failing a pregnant mentally ill inmate. Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony says the two refused to allow the inmate to get medical care while she gave birth in her cell last month. The 28-year-old woman is back home in Boca Raton, and her son is in DCF custody.
Apparently the pregnant inmate had been screaming for help and was allegedly ignored by jail staff up until her son was born, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
Sheriff Gregory Tony fired the two administrators Thursday, 24 hours after finding out what happened.
“I conducted a review of the matter and determined that command level failures occurred by Colonel Palmer and Lieutenant Colonel Neely in this case,” Sheriff Tony said in a news release. “They grossly failed this agency and this inmate.”
A law was recently passed to prevent this type of inmate neglect after another pregnant woman was forced to give birth alone in her cell a year ago in Miami.
The mentally ill woman gave birth Sept. 27, nearly three months after the state enacted the Tammy Jackson Healthy Pregnancies for Incarcerated Women law, which puts safeguards in place preventing pregnant women being in restrictive or isolated cells during their detention.
Jackson had her baby alone in a jail cell in April 2019, drawing outrage from Public Defender Howard Finkelstein and inspiring the new law, which passed both through the state Legislature unanimously in March.
Sheriff Tony appointed Lieutenant Colonel Josefa Benjamin as acting Colonel of the Department of Detention.
The woman, who’s not being identified, was being held in an infirmary cell, so she could be seen by nurses on short notice, but Chief Assistant Public Defender Gordon Weekes said it was a “far cry from a hospital room.”
Officials knew the woman was pregnant and “suffering from acute mental illness” soon after she was taken into custody, the Sun-Sentinel reported. Even though the woman declined treatment, she told her attorneys that jail staff offered her prenatal vitamins and didn’t recognize the signs of labor until it was too late.