ALACHUA COUNTY, Fla. – A local family is suing the Alachua County Jail after a newborn girl died after being born in the jail. The baby’s mother, Erica Thompson, claims staff ignored her cries for help.
She claimed she pleaded for help and screamed, but the staff didn’t call an ambulance until after the baby arrived.
Thompson was six months pregnant when she started having contractions in August.
“They told her at the hospital, if you feel like you’re having more contractions come back tomorrow, we may have to give you medicine to stop the contractions,” said attorney Natalie Jackson, who’s representing Thompson.
Thompson said she was on her way to the hospital the next morning when the deputies came to her mother’s house to arrest her.
“And I told them, you know, I couldn’t walk too fast to the truck because I was having contractions,” Thompson said.
Her attorney said Thompson was arrested on charges of driving with a suspended license and lying to police.
Time-stamped photos released by the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office show she entered the jail a little before 10 a.m. on August 9. Thompson said she was doubled over in pain at the time, but a nurse cleared her for booking.
“They gave me Gatorade because they said that would stop my contractions because I was just dehydrated,” Thompson said.
Thompson said that she asked to go to the hospital multiple times, but her request was denied.
“There was really nothing I could do after that. She made me go in my cell, and, at this point, I’m screaming and crying and begging them to help me,” Thompson said.
A still image from surveillance video shows staff at her cell around 10:20 that night, about a minute after Thompson is seen knocking on the window. The staff is seen again at 10:50 p.m. in another photo, and EMS is shown arriving 10 minutes later. But, by that point, Thompson said she had given birth to a premature baby girl, Ava.
Ava later died at the hospital.
“If there was proper medical care, this baby could have been saved,” Jackson said.
Attorneys for Thompson said the facility violated Florida’s Tammy Jackson Act, which calls for incarcerated pregnant women who go in to labor to be transported to an appropriate medical facility without delay and to receive proper care. The act also says pregnant inmates must not be kept in restrictive housing against their will.
A spokesperson for the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office said the incident is still under investigation and said the facts will speak for themselves. So far, the Sheriff’s Office has refused to release the full surveillance video from inside the jail.