title=wpil_keyword_linkCounty Jail without anyone knowing were released Thursday as part of a federal lawsuit.” title=”New details about how and why a baby was born in the Tarrant County Jail without anyone knowing were released Thursday as part of a federal lawsuit.” loading=”lazy”/>

New details about how and why a baby was born in the Tarrant County Jail without anyone knowing were released Thursday as part of a federal lawsuit.

A federal lawsuit filed on behalf of a woman who secretly gave birth in Tarrant County Jail tells the story of a family who sought mental health help for the pregnant woman, only to see her incarcerated without treatment .

The baby, born on May 17, 2020, died 10 days later. The mother, who was non-verbal at the time of the birth, was later taken to a mental health facility, where her family said she should have been from the start.

Lawyer Marwa Elbially wrote in the lawsuit that Tarrant County Jail violated the Sandra Bland Act when she failed to tell a magistrate about the woman’s mental condition despite knowing she was in pain mental illness and intellectual disability. The lawsuit accuses officials of denying the woman medical care, false arrest, unlawful pretrial detention and wrongful death, among other charges.

The woman was not assessed or received any treatment she needed, according to the lawsuit.

A representative from the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office, which oversees the jail, did not immediately return a request for comment. A statement from the city of Fort Worth said, “We are aware of a lawsuit, but have not received a copy of the lawsuit and therefore will not comment.”

How a baby was born in prison

The 21-year-old was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and suffered from developmental disabilities which sometimes affected her ability to communicate.

She was arrested on May 19, 2019, after being charged with punching and pulling the hair of a teenager, according to an indictment. A judge issued two court orders for her to be tested to determine her fitness to stand trial, but the woman was released without receiving any assessment. She pleaded guilty and received a four-year suspended sentence.

In January 2020, the now pregnant woman was in mental distress when her family called Fort Worth police to involuntarily commit her to John Peter Smith Hospital.

Instead, she was arrested and charged with violating her probation. Elbially wrote in the lawsuit that the woman was not breaking any laws or rules at the time of her detention.

The woman was not called for a hearing in the first five months of her time in prison, Elbially wrote.

Four days after her arrest, the woman was placed under observation due to suicidal statements after other inmates abused and mocked her, according to the lawsuit.

On January 23, a mental health assessment noted that the woman “appeared childish, shy and had been diagnosed with intellectual retardation,” according to the lawsuit. The next day, the woman started refusing her medicine and food. Four days later, she became non-verbal, according to treatment notes obtained by Elbially. The woman was kept in the infirmary.

The woman continued to refuse to eat and was not gaining weight. She was also not receiving her medication, according to the lawsuit.

Months later, on May 1, the nurse in the infirmary noted that the woman would probably not understand what a contraction was. When the nurses tried to explain the feeling to the woman, she became agitated. Her next two OBGYN dates have been canceled, Elbially wrote.

During her last OBGYN visit on May 13, the doctor confirmed that the woman would not be able to express labor symptoms and would not recognize herself in labour.

She was sent back to prison.

On May 17, the woman felt pain in her stomach. When he didn’t disappear after using the bathroom, the lawsuit says, she knocked on the window. No one was there to answer.

The woman went back to bed and gave birth.

At 9:07 a.m., a jailer notices blood on the woman’s bedding. The baby’s umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck and the woman lost a large amount of blood, according to the lawsuit.

About 30 minutes after being found in her cell, the woman was taken to JPS Hospital.

The woman’s family learned that the baby was suffering from a lack of oxygen to the brain. She was baptized on May 21 and her condition has deteriorated.

On May 26, a doctor at Cook Children’s Hospital wrote a note to the prison explaining the baby’s condition “in a futile attempt to let (the woman) see her daughter.”

The request was denied, according to the lawsuit.

The baby died on May 27. The woman was placed on suicide watch the same day.

On June 18, prosecutors filed a motion to drop the charges against the woman.

She was taken to JPS for hospital care, which her family had originally requested the day they called 911. After months of treatment, the woman was returned to her mother’s care.

She always asks about her baby, depending on the trial, and when she will be back.

The Prison Story of Not Controlling Inmates

A month before the baby was born, a man committed suicide while being held in prison. The Texas Commission on Jail Standards revoked the jail’s state certification for six days until the jail releases a corrective plan.

The state requires face-to-face observations of inmates known to be mentally ill, but the prison has a history of not conducting them, the lawsuit said.

The man who took his own life was left alone for an hour before being found, according to state records previously obtained by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

From January 2019 to September 2020, there were at least 30 known incidents where inmates were left unsupervised due to the prison’s failure to monitor them, according to the lawsuit. For two days in May 2020, jailers were more than six hours late for their first observation checks, according to the lawsuit.

And in 2020, jailers Erik Gay and Darien Kirk were criminally charged after lying 20 times about checking Javonte Myers, who died in June of this year.

The prison has failed its annual inspection three of the past seven years, and the Commission on Jail Standards has repeatedly found that a magistrate was not told in a timely manner that a person suspected of having a mental illness or a learning disability had been convicted, according to the trial.

This story was originally published January 13, 2022 4:16 p.m.

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Nichole Manna is an award-winning investigative reporter for the Star-Telegram who focuses on criminal justice. Before moving to Fort Worth in July 2018, she was a reporter for newspapers in Tennessee, North Carolina, Nebraska and Kansas. She enjoys spending time with her two dogs, Opie and Oliver. You can send news tips and book suggestions to [email protected] or on Twitter @NicholeManna.


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