Coronavirus: Inmate dies after giving birth on ventilator

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Advocates of prison reform have criticised Justice Department measures on releasing low-risk inmates amid coronavirus pandemic as not going far enough

World | The Independent

A pregnant woman serving a prison sentence for maintaining a drug-related business has died during the birth of her child by c-section while she was on a ventilator.

The US Bureau of Prisons said on Tuesday that the 30-year-old, Andrea Circle Bear, had died during childbirth at a hospital in Texas, about a month after she was first hospitalised.

Circle Bear, who was serving a 26-month sentence, is believed to be the first female federal inmate to succumb to the Covid-19 disease and the 29th federal inmate to die in the custody of the US Bureau of Prisons since late March.

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Meanwhile, more than 1,700 federal inmates have tested positive for the coronavirus, and 400 have since recovered.

The death of Circle Bear comes as advocates of criminal justice reform and the relatives of inmates criticise the Justice Department and Bureau of Prisons over the release of low-risk inmates during the Covid-19 outbreak.

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Attorney General William Barr had ordered the Bureau of Prisons to begin using home confinement for federal inmates who met certain criteria in late March, due to the current emergency conditions in federal prisons.

Since then, the families of inmates have complained that the criteria for home release has shifted multiple times, with some inmates being returned to confinement during pre-release quarantine as criteria changed.

At present, the Bureau of Prisons says that those who have served half of their sentence or inmates who have 18 months or less left and who served at least 25 per cent of their time will be prioritised for release.

Although pregnant, Circle Bear was not considered priority for release under the Bureau of Prisons and Justice Department guidelines on releasing prisoners to home confinement to help stop the spread.

Circle Bear was transported from a jail in South Dakota on 20 March to Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas, and quarantined on arrival. ​

On 28 March she was taken to a hospital amid concerns about her pregnancy, but was returned to prison on the same day, officials said.

Three days later, she had developed symptoms including a fever and a cough and was returned to the hospital for treatment.

She was placed on a ventilator on the same day of her admission to hospital, and gave birth the next day by caesarean section. She tested positive for Covid-19 on 4 April and died on Tuesday.

Circle Bear, of Eagle Butte, South Dakota, had been sentenced in January after she pleaded guilty in federal court to drug-related charges.

  • Coronavirus: Inmate dies after giving birth on ventilator photo


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