A pregnant woman in Alabama was detained in the Etowah County Jail for months to protect her unborn baby, due to being arrested on a drugs charge.
Ashley Banks, 23, was initially arrested on May 25th for possession of a small amount of cannabis and an unregistered gun. Banks admitted to having smoked marijuana two days prior, which was also the same day she learned she was pregnant.
Etowah County Jail’s police meant that Banks would not be eligible to post bail and would therefore remain in custody until the date of her trial. Banks would only be permitted to leave jail if she agreed to attend drug rehabilitation, which left her incarcerated for three months, al.com reported. The other condition of bail for banks would be a payment of $10,000.
Lawyers for The National Advocates for Pregnant Women said that the extra requirements placed on women who have not yet been convicted are grossly unfair. They also said that holding pregnant women in prison goes against the grain of expert advice on maternal health.
OB/GYN Dr. Carolyn Sufrin at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine made a case in an affidavit declaring that Banks should be released.
“The stress and conditions in jail and prisons, including lack of consistent access to standard prenatal care and mental health care, poor diets, poor sanitation, infestations with bugs and vermin, poor ventilation, tension, noise, lack of privacy, lack of family and community contact, can be detrimental to physical and mental health which can result in poor pregnancy outcomes for both the mother and the baby,” Sufrin wrote.
Banks said corrections offers said she could sleep on the bottom bed, however the cell she was living in had one bottom bunk and two women assigned to it, which resulted in Banks sleeping on the floor.
Banks was evaluated twice after bleeding and fainting but was found to be ineligible for free state addiction services.
Banks’ Attorneys also hit out at her treatment. “Ms Banks is currently incarcerated indefinitely because the State will not accept her $10,000.00 cash bail and she does not qualify for a residential drug treatment,” her attorneys said. Banks was eventually released to community corrections on August 25th.
Chris Retan, who is the executive director of Aletheia House, a substance abuse treatment provider, said they often have beds available for pregnant women and mothers. Retan went on to say that judges should not force women into treatment if they do not have a substance abuse problem.
“I would say that the appropriate thing for them to do is to go to drug treatment program that matches their level of need,” Retan said. “Residential treatment is for people with a serious disorder.”
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: CORRECTIONS1.COM
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