Investigate Medical Protocols and Isolation Practices in Broward Detention Facilities
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On April 10, 2019, Ms. Tammy Jackson, a 34-year old woman who suffers from mental illness, gave birth to her daughter alone in an isolation jail cell, with no medical attention and no one to provide her support or care. Mother and child are alive and with no serious consequences, no thanks to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office personnel and contractors, who failed to coordinate the proper medical care and response for Ms. Jackson to deliver her child at the hospital.
The undersigned request the full cooperation and support from Broward County Sheriff’s Office, Broward County Commission, Florida State Legislators representing Broward County, Governor Ron DeSantis, U.S. Legislators representing Broward County to meet the demands outlined herein to determine accountability, document deficiencies and implement changes, as needed, ensuring that no person detained in a Broward County facility experiences a situation such as that detailed below.
Ms. Jackson was arrested by BSO in late March for drug possession and other misdemeanor charges and was being held at North Broward Bureau, a minimum to medium security jail in Pompano Beach, FL. The primary mission of the facility, as described on their website, is to “house and manage the mentally ill, medically infirm and special needs inmate population.” So, for all intents and purposes, this was exactly the place that a pregnant woman, nearly due, would expect to be cared for in a manner consistent with proper medical protocols.
This was not the case. According to news reports and accounts from other inmates, Ms. Jackson informed jail staff she was having contractions around 3:00AM. When her water broke the staff provided her a change of clothes and blankets. Thereafter, they did not check in on her or respond to her pleas for help. The staff reports they tried to contact the on-call doctor but did not make contact until 7:20AM. At approximately 10:00AM a jail employee found Ms. Jackson holding her newborn in her arms and reported it to other personnel. At that time, the contracted doctor and two nurses entered the cell to provide care. Ms. Jackson was then transported to the hospital. The inmates stated that “she was screaming like bloody murder; like screaming all night long”. The insides of the cells in the facility are clearly visible from outside the cell so it should have been visible to anyone paying attention that Ms. Jackson was experiencing active labor and delivering her child.
Ms. Jackson was alone, with no care during her labor and delivery, for approximately 7 hours from the time she first informed officers about her contractions. This is unacceptable.
The doctor and nurses at the facility work for Wellpath, the largest correctional health care provider in the country. “A CNN analysis of federal court records over the past five years shows that the company has been at the center of lawsuits involving at least six different facilities. The lawsuits allege that pregnant women have been subjected to inhumane and dangerous conditions and treatment that in some cases have allegedly led to miscarriages and infant deaths.”
Additionally, the facility appears to have made no efforts to self-report the incident as would be expected for such an unusual event. One official report filed by prison employees indicated “Pregnant female had a spontaneous delivery and no injuries noted.” The personnel on site at North Broward Bureau did not alert the Sheriff’s Office nor did they inform Ms. Jackson’s mother when she visited her granddaughter in the hospital. Not surprisingly, had Local 10 News reporter, Layron Livingston, not broken the story and contacted the Broward County Public Defender, Howard Finkelstein, this situation would likely never have seen the light of day.
Upon notice and review, Mr. Finkelstein and Mr. Gordon H. Weekes, Jr., Executive Chief Assistant Public Defender, wrote a letter to Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony expressing their concerns. “Not only was Ms. Jackson’s health callously ignored, the life of her child was also put at grave risk,” the letter stated. The letter ends with their demand for “an immediate review of the medical and isolation practices in place in all detention facilities."
We join Mr. Finkelstein and Mr. Weekes in their denouncement of the treatment provided to Ms. Tammy Jackson and demand the immediate formation of a cross-agency investigative panel to:
- review and assess isolation protocols in all detention facilities, particularly those facilities that have been designated for population by mentally ill, differently abled or those in need of special medical attention, and specifically answer why Ms. Jackson was isolated to begin with and whether the current practices are in line with best practices for the particularly vulnerable populations in these facilities;
- review and assess medical protocols in all detention facilities, particularly protocols for treatment of pregnant women, and specifically answer why Ms. Jackson was not transported to a hospital in a timely manner and what medical attention should have been provided in that situation;
- review and assess incident reporting procedures at all detention facilities and specifically answer why this serious incident was not reported up the chain of command in a timely manner;
- review and assess current contracts with Wellpath and any other medical providers and medical incident reports to determine the adequacy of established protocols, the level of compliance with those protocols and the degree to which failure to adhere to these protocols has resulted in incidents, specifically answering why the medical staff did not act as expected to facilitate a proper medical response, why there was no back-up doctor on call that could have responded sooner, and whether there was a breach of contract in not providing proper medical response to Ms. Jackson and possibly others who we are not aware of at this time;
- identify specific employees and contractors involved and assess actions taken in this incident to determine level of accountability and take action, to include termination of employment, for anyone who failed to perform their job in accordance with expectations;
- use all findings from this investigation to coordinate with local hospital emergency departments, representatives from the midwives and birth doula communities, and other public health entities to make changes to current standards and protocols, as needed, to effectively make resources available and coordinate reproductive health care efforts, especially labor and delivery, for those in custody.
- report all findings to the community in an open forum so that this incident becomes transparent for all to learn from and ensure that this never again happens in Broward County, Florida.
We demand the above in the best interest of the community. It is imperative that we work together to hold people accountable, document deficiencies and implement changes, as needed, to ensure that this type of event never occurs in Broward County again and that we maintain the dignity and welfare of people in detention.
photo credit: www.local10.com
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