A coalition of women's rights activists expressed outrage that a pregnant, mentally ill inmate of the Broward Sheriff's Office gave birth to her baby girl by herself, without medical attention.
Activists from Pro-Choice Coalition, Broward League of Women Voters, Black Women Rise and Broward County NOW on Tuesday morning, June 4, met inside the Broward County Governmental Center located on Andrews Avenue, followed by their attendance at the Broward County Commission meeting. Their concern was the mistreatment of 34-year-old Tammy Jackson, who had given birth in a Broward County jail cell in Pompano Beach. A long list of speakers spoke at a press conference, and at the meeting, concluding with Jackson’s lawyer, Teresa Williams.
Rosa Valderrama, from the Pro-Choice Coalition, said Jackson should have received care and attention while she was in the Broward County jail. Valderrama said that what took place within the jail cell was completely unacceptable, and also that a doctor, who had been contacted, arrived late the next morning to look at Jackson for a long overdue visit.
“She went into labor and screamed and bled and gave birth to her baby by herself,” said Valderrama. “This is completely unacceptable. The staff was unable or unwilling to contact the doctor employed by the health care provider until 10 a.m. the next day. The Broward County Commission is responsible for funding the Broward Sheriffs Office, which oversees the county jails. We are here to demand accountability for Tammy Jackson.”
Valderrama also said that an open letter signed by several different agencies was going to be submitted to the Broward County attorney and the Commissioners, and that she and the representatives of her delegation wanted an investigation into what had happened to Jackson and people involved held accountable.
Attorney Alexandra Audate echoed what Valderrama said and noted that no woman should give birth alone in solitary confinement. Black and Brown women often suffer mistreatment in the prison system, Audate said. She recommended termination for all the officers who were involved. Audate also asked those present at the press conference and at the Commission meeting if they wanted what happened to Jackson to happen to their daughter, granddaughter, or any family member who was female.
“No pregnant woman should be placed in solitary confinement and be left to give birth alone,” said Audate. “We need a change in leadership as a catalyst for the local level and state level so this won’t happen again.”
Tiffany Burks, with Black Lives Matter Alliance Broward, said that oppression seemed to be the current state of mental health care, especially where Black and Brown women were concerned and that Black women were overrepresented in the prison system. Burks also spoke of the community of Liberia in Hollywood, where Jackson resided and said that once thriving community was suffering from being underfunded and under-resourced. She questioned how Black and Brown women could remain well in a system that didn’t seem to want them to be well.
“Let’s be honest,” said Burks. “The criminal justice system fails Black people every day.”
Jasmine Rogers-Shaw, who is on the board of directors of the Women’s March of Broward, said that what happened to Jackson was shocking but not surprising. She said that people needed to be allies all the time, and not just when it was convenient and when it was during someone’s campaign.
“No one should give birth alone, screaming in pain,” said Rogers-Shaw. “We demand accountability from the Broward Sheriff’s Office and that it implement holistic changes we can support.”
Jamarah Amani, director of the Southern Birth Justice Network, said that Black and Brown women deserved better care and treatment in the prison system, as did Jackson. Amani said that all prison systems should have within their budgets restorative care and healing for women. She spoke also about what was the for- profit prison system and health care system that was in place that did not adequately care for women inside its facilities.
“Black women should have access to better outcomes,” said Amani.
Katy Syed, of the Broward League of Women Voters, called for justice and an investigation into what happened to Jackson and that all involved should be held accountable. She also wanted to remind the Commission, and the Sheriff’s office, that they were under a spotlight.
Joanne Sterner, of Broward County NOW, said that the Broward County Sheriff was asking for an increase in his budget, and she wanted to know how much in the budget was for inmate health. Sterner also wanted to know why a private for-profit company was in charge of running the jail, and that company needed to be held accountable for the care it gave inmates.
“This is not a political statement,” said Sterner, “but a women’s issue. Ms. Jackson and her baby could have died in there.”
After the comments and input from the activists, Broward County Vice Mayor Dale Holness spoke and said that the Commission would address the concerns raised and speak to the Sheriff’s Office about what was going on. Mayor Mark Bogen concurred with Holness. Bogen said that the Commission had asked that the Sheriff address the situation but so far no action had taken place.
“On behalf of the rest of my colleagues,” said Holness, “we are listening to you. We are aware of the situation. We will stand up for what’s right and make sure that this doesn’t happen again.”