Oh baby! Woman gives birth in Texas jail, guards unaware

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DALLAS (AP) — A woman in a Texas jail surprised corrections officers this month by giving birth to a child in her cell without their knowledge, officials said.

The woman was alone in a Fort Worth jail cell on May 17 when she delivered the baby, according to Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Lt. Jennifer Gabbert.

The woman “did not immediately disclose the birth, but the baby was soon discovered by a corrections officer” and both were taken to a hospital, Gabbert said. She could not immediately provide information about the health of the mother and child.

Jail staff knew the woman was pregnant and were checking on her regularly, Gabbert said, without specifying the frequency of those checks.

She declined to identify the mother and would not answer several questions about the birth including how the woman could have gone into labor and delivered a child without it coming to the guards’ attention. She wouldn’t say how long the inmate was in labor.

The sheriff’s internal affairs department is investigating the birth but there is no indication of wrongdoing by jail staff, Gabbert said. The state body that oversees Texas jails is also looking into it for possible regulatory violations.

The mother has been held in jail without bond since January on charges of assaulting a family member and injuring a child, elderly or disabled person, Gabbert said. The delivery was first reported by the Forth Worth Star-Telegram.

The jail has been fighting an outbreak of the new coronavirus among inmates and staff. Fort Worth police have erred against arresting those accused of some minor crimes to avoid spreading the virus to new inmates.

The child was born a few days before state inspectors informed Tarrant County Jail staff that they were not meeting minimum standards for checking on some inmates, according to Brandon Wood, executive director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.

Wood said the jail was sent a notice of non-compliance on May 21 after inspectors found staff had failed to promptly do at least one face-to-face check required every 30 minutes for some inmates. He said the jail submitted a plan to correct the issue and was re-certified six days later.

Wood and Gabbert said the jail’s temporary loss of state certification was not related to the birth, but did not immediately elaborate.


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