Pregnant for the first time at 33, Alice* was seeing a doctor and committed to a healthy pregnancy. Although she had longstanding mental health problems and substance use, she was prioritizing the health of her baby during pregnancy. But when she was arrested and held in the Nacogdoches County Jail for seven weeks pretrial, she was denied prenatal care for weeks and had repeated problems obtaining her life-sustaining medicine. Emotionally distraught, she was placed in solitary and treated as a problem prisoner. Both Alice and her mother Sally, a schoolteacher, were threatened with retaliation for making complaints.
Attention: Nacogdoches County
When jailers and sheriffs disapprove of an inmate, does that give them the right to deny that person fair treatment? Humane conditions? A trained jailer should surely know that the answer is “no,” and that verbal abuse and judgmental attitudes can be disastrous for inmates with serious problems. Like Cathryn Windham, 7 months pregnant and currently incarcerated in your county jail. Pre-trial, convicted of nothing but accused of many things. All of which may not even be true. This college graduate has a long-documented history of mental illness and yes, she has used drugs. And so it would appear that you have found her guilty of being an imperfect mother-to-be. I suggest the jail, sheriff, and this county are failing her by not recognizing mental disorders in a pregnant woman are a complicated business, and not necessarily deserving of hostility and punishment.
A Texas Ranger investigation actually finds a jail and its staff responsible for the death of a person in their custody, due to lack of medical care! This outcome is rare and Texas Jail Project is relieved to see it happen. Even more importantly, the Nacogdoches Commissioners Court took steps to prevent other deaths by creating a new position who will advise jailers on procedures and practices to follow when dealing with ill or injured inmates. We hope that people in Nacogdoches County will let us know if there is any improvement in the medical care in that jail.