A Texas inmate says she gave birth to a premature baby on the floor of her cell while guards ignored her pleas for help.
“I delivered a one pound, two ounce baby in that single cell, screaming for hours, begging them to come and help me,” Shaye Bear told WFAA, the ABC affiliate in Dallas.
“There’s not a person who can tell me they didn’t hear me screaming, begging, praying,” she said.
Bear, 25, was five months pregnant when she gave birth May 17 at the Ellis County jail in Waxahachie, Texas, according to the report. After the birth, Bear and her baby were taken to a nearby hospital. The baby, who was airlifted to a children’s hospital in Fort Worth, remains in intensive care, the station reported. Bear was moved to the Dallas County Jail, according to officials.
Bear (pictured above) was jailed on a “drug related” charge, jail spokesperson Sgt. Joe M. Fitzgerald told Oxygen.com.
Ellis County Sheriff Charles Edge told WFAA that Texas Rangers were looking into Bear’s allegations. ”Any investigative questions will not be answered,” he told the station.
This was Bear’s third baby, so she knew she was in labor when contractions started, even though her jailors thought she was faking it, she told WFAA. Things moved quickly after her water broke, she said.
“Not even, maybe, ten seconds, twelve seconds after that, I have another contraction and my baby flies out of me and lands on the mat,” she said. “I sucked the fluids out of my baby’s mouth and nose ... And I was so scared. My baby’s purple, you know.”
About 12,000 pregnant women are held in local jails each year, according to Janice Banther, an advocate who founded Birth Behind Bars in 2001. Usually, “the girl is totally unprepared for what is going to happen,” she told Oxygen.com.
Despite their pregnancies, jailed women are still subjected to harsh treatment. In Pennsylvania, inmates sued Allegheny County Jail in 2016, saying they were placed in solitary confinement when pregnant, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Most states allow shackling during labor and delivery, a 2017 Mother Jones report found.
A 2015 Rewire News report found that pregnant inmates' urgent requests for medical care were being ignored in jails across the country, sometimes with fatal results. Preterm births are a particular problem, Banther says, because many of the jailed women have histories of drug use, which can trigger a preterm birth. When that happens, she says, most jails don’t have the staff or resources to deal with it.
“Nobody wants to believe that baby’s coming early,” she said.
[Photo: Dallas County Sheriff’s Department]