Pregnant Women in Texas County Jails

Oct 1st, 2018 | By | Category: Featured Articles

Each month, each jail is required to report the number of pregnant women they booked in or found to be pregnant to the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. Usually the tally runs from 300 to 400. While some women are only held there a few days, others may be incarcerated for weeks and months, and a small percentage will deliver their babies while in the custody of that county jail.

 The Texas Commission on Jail Standards posts the number each month on its website. Click here and look at the last item on the list.

May 1st, 2018, the number reported from all the jails was 365. That was the total of all those who were pregnant when booked into county jails. 

If your daughter, wife, sister or mom is one of those women, you want her to have the best possible care. If you yourself experienced being pregnant in a county jail, Texas Jail Project wants to know how you were treated and what the conditions were like. CONTACT US (or email texasjailproject@gmail.com) and let us know what you experienced in jail and how your baby is today!

Two laws* were passed in 2009: one requiring healthy conditions and nutrition and medical care for pregnant inmates, and the second restricting the use of restraints on women in labor, childbirth, or post natal. But women have complained about lack of medical care and other problems, and we have discovered that the Texas Commission on Jail Standards has not been promoting the improved standards for care of pregnant women or we could not find out if inspectors are checking to see if women are reporting being shackled during childbirth.

In 2015, we worked on another successful bill. It required the Jail Commission to send a questionnaire to each jail asking for details of food, medical care, and conditions for pregnant inmates.It was important to ask these questions because jails (and prisons) were originally designed around the needs and habits of men, not women, and certainly not pregnant women. TCJS issued a report about the findings in late 2016.  From the jail questionnaires, we learned that nutrition and medical care was all over the map, and some jails reported no ob/gyn was available at all.

We know a lot of people don’t know where to report the problems and others who are afraid to report. We may be able to help right then; if it’s in the past we can tell your story. If you like, we can record what happened without your name being involved. Also, please let us know about any jail where a pregnant woman receives good care!

 

*HB 3653 bans shackling of women during labor and delivery in Texas jails, with an exception for dangerous circumstances.

 HB 3654 requires Texas jails establish basic standards and report on pregnant inmates through the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.

SB 3654 Addresses the Current Lack of Information.  As of 2009, there were are 247 jails in Texas housing roughly 13,000 women, inspected by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, and run with taxpayer dollars.  The Justice Department estimated about 5% of female prisoners are pregnant while incarcerated, giving Texas an estimated 650 pregnant inmates in county jails at any one time. This bill was the first to require reporting that allows Texas jails and policymakers to tailor policy to address the health of incarcerated pregnant mothers and their children.

Shackling complicates childbirth, risking the health of the child. On June 12, 2007, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists stated in a letter supporting a federal ban on shackling: “[p]hysical restraints have interfered with the ability of physicians to safely practice medicine by reducing their ability to assess and evaluate the physical condition of the mother and the fetus, and have similarly made the labor and delivery process more difficult that is needs to be; thus, overall putting the health and lives of the women and unborn children at risk.”[2]  The federal Bureau of Prisons recently adopted standards banning shackling during labor and delivery, with exceptions for extreme situations.[3]  Illinois banned the use of shackling in 2000.[4]  In response to a lawsuit by an inmate shackled during delivery, Arkansas recently reduced the use of shackling in state policy.

Specific Standards for Pregnant Inmates Are Necessary to Ensure Healthy Birth Outcomes.  The 247 county jails in Texas have a wide array of expertise in the health needs of pregnant inmates. Small jails may have a registered nurse or other health professional who is not a medical doctor monitoring the health of inmates.  Given the wide variety of facilities and expertise, state-wide standards are necessary to ensure the best possible outcomes for infants.

[1]http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/02/national/02shackles.html

[2]Available at http://www.acog.org/departments/underserved/20070612SaarLTR.pdf

[3]http://blog.aclu.org/2008/10/20/bureau-of-prisons-revises-policy-on-shackling-of-pregnant-inmates/

[4]http://blog.aclu.org/2008/10/20/bureau-of-prisons-revises-policy-on-shackling-of-pregnant-inmates/

[5]http://www.arktimes.com/articles/articleviewer.aspx?ArticleID=5b9adeb2-dec7-4029-b3a7-edad66c610b8

 

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11 Comments to “Pregnant Women in Texas County Jails”

  1. Anonymous says:

    My wife Bonnie is currently incarcerated at Dallas County Jail (Kays Tower), is 44 years old and pregnant at at 12 weeks of gestation. Bonnie already has symptoms of gestational diabetes, hypertension and polyhydramnios (too much amniotic fluid). Our son John was born in 10/11, delivered 6 weeks early by emergency c-section due to these same complications. John was diagnosed with Down syndrome and a severe heart defect in utero. The two of them together required specialized obstetrics and cardiology care throughout the pregnancy.

    She was brought back to jail from Phoenix House in Wilmer, because she could no longer keep up with the program. ….[EDITED OUT]

    I am extremely concerned for both the health and safety of both my wife and unborn child. What can I do to ensure they both receive the required health care precipitated by her medical conditions?

  2. Anonymous says:

    I am an attorney who represented a 19 year old pregnant girl who was in Haaris County jail for many months in 2011. She almost lost her baby but could not afford bond. I ended up bonding her put myself. Jail is no place for a pregnant girl. Especially not in Houston.

    • admin says:

      To the attorney who wrote this: we are so glad to see an attorney speak to conditions for pregnant women as many don’t
      mention it even though they see the problems. It would help us if you would email me at diana@texasjailproject.org so I could get a few details, especially about specific areas of concern, e.g. diet and access to water and medical care, etc.

  3. Concerned says:

    I have a 21 year old cousin in Montgomery County Jail. She is apparently 4 months pregnant and is not receiving any prenatal care. According to the information I have received, she has been given a multi-vitamin, but that’s all. Her diet consists of bologna and salami sandwiches. According to her she throws up at the site of bologna or salami and she has only gained 5 pounds. She says she has asked to see a doctor, but she hasn’t been allowed to do so. My question is, what can we do to help her without making her life more difficult? Family members have tried to speak with her court-appointed attorney with limited success. Thank you in advance for any assistance you can offer.

  4. mary beth earle says:

    my daughter is in jail in wood county texas and claims she has to use her commisary money to pay for her medical appts and since she gets money in commisary they said she couldn’t get medicaid and is not considered indigent because she receives money in commisary this is not fair i can’t afford to send her much money and am very upset. is there any program for her pregnancy visits to the dr.? she also claims she is sleeping on a concrete floor and only has one deflated pad she is having severe hip and back pain please help us this is her first child and she is very stressed and it concerns me!!!!

  5. Laura says:

    I am practicing to become a licensed Doula (birthing coach) I am curious about the pregnancy care and birthing care in the county jails… I have had some experience in the jail system (in fact I heard my first baby’s heartbeat for the first time in collin county jail in 2010…) I would like to find a way to serve and help these ladies who are having babies that are behind bars.. any ideas?

  6. Laura Thaxton says:

    My daughter is in Dallam co.jail in dalhart tx,she is 5 Mon due in April, how long does family have before they have to pick the baby up,and do they have to call you when she goes in labor? Can someone pls help ansure me

  7. Diana says:

    My Niece is currently in jail in kerrville
    and pregnant and had told us she has received
    absolutely zero medical care.

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