Can Pregnant Inmates Be Forced to Give Birth in Jail?

By Molly Zilli, Esq. on May 29, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Childbirth is stressful. And it's really, really hard. Sure, the experience is also other-worldly miraculous, but between the pain and the uncertainty, pretty much every woman wants to get it over with as quickly as possible to meet that tiny baby who's been breakdancing inside her for months. But as difficult as your standard labor is, imagine giving birth in jail.

Over the years, pregnant women have been forced to give birth in jail, either because their labor progressed too rapidly, or because they were not cared for quickly enough. In a recent case, a Texas woman claims guards actually ignored her cries for help, forcing her to give birth to her son in her jail cell.

Screaming for Hours

Shaye Bear was around three months pregnant when she was arrested on drug charges in March. Two months later, while in her jail cell, she went into labor. She says she screamed in pain for hours at a time, yet her pleas for help were ignored. Other inmates say Bear was screaming for two days. Bear claims guards said they wouldn't help her until she "had that baby in that cell."

The 25-year-old says she delivered her one-pound, two-ounce baby and immediately sucked the fluid out of his mouth. Afterward, she and her son, Cashh, were taken to a medical center in Fort Worth. Sadly, Cashh passed away a little over a week later. Ms. Bear is likely to file a lawsuit. "I will be holding them accountable for my child's death."

Self-Induced Labor?

Although officials are not openly commenting on the case since it's an ongoing investigation, one law enforcement official told WFAA-TV that investigators believed the young mom induced herself into labor. Although Ellis County Sheriff Charles Edge didn't comment on Bears allegations, he did say that she received medical care the entire time she was pregnant and in jail.

It's not uncommon to find women who have been arrested and incarcerated while pregnant. However, they must be given proper medical care. Unfortunately, this is not the first time a woman has been forced to deliver a baby in her jail cell, and most states even allow a woman to be shackled while in labor. Additionally, once an inmate does give birth, her and her baby's futures are uncertain, as most children are separated from their mothers soon after birth, and some women lose their parental rights altogether.

Contact a lawyer if you've been arrested or incarcerated. An attorney can advocate for a pregnant inmate's right, argue for a reduced or alternative sentence, or file a lawsuit if she's been treated unfairly or denied proper care.

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