Broward detention officials fired after inmate delivers baby in jail

Two Broward detention officials have been fired by Sheriff Gregory Tony after an inmate was forced to give birth in a jail, just a year after a law was passed trying to prevent that situation.

POMPANO BEACH, Fla. – A new law named after Tammy Jackson says it’s the responsibility of the state to care for pregnant inmates. But late last month another woman was forced to give birth inside a Broward jail.

A letter sent Wednesday by the Broward County Public Defender to Sheriff Gregory Tony demanded answers, and Tony has taken action — announcing Thursday the terminations of Department of Detention Colonel Gary Palmer and Department of Detention Lieutenant Colonel Angela Neely.

“I conducted a review of the matter and determined that command level failures occurred by Colonel Palmer and Lieutenant Colonel Neely in this case,” Tony said in a statement released just after Local 10 News' 6 p.m. report about the incident. “They grossly failed this agency and this inmate.”

BSO’s news release specified that “their terminations stem from an administrative review of an incident in late September when an inmate in the female infirmary at the North Broward Bureau gave birth to a child.”

The agency also says that an internal affairs investigation has been initiated “to determine the actions of detention deputies, as well as medical staff of Wellpath, the healthcare provider for the jails, during the incident.”

It was late September when inmate Stephanie Bretas, 28, started having contractions and crying from the labor pains, according to the letter from the public defender.

The letter claimed that Bretas was ignored and ended up having her baby in her cell.

“I feel very disappointed in how the system is working for women,” Chief Assistant Public Defender Gordon Weekes said in an interview with Local 10 News. “Shows lack of compassion and it’s just plainly inhumane.”

Local 10 was first to break the story of another inmate, Tammy Jackson, who was in a Broward isolation cell when she went into labor in April 2019, giving birth to her baby girl all alone.

The Tammy Jackson Act was signed into law this past June, ensuring that pregnant women who go into labor while incarcerated in Florida get transported to an appropriate medical facility without delay for proper medical care.

“To see it happen again, and to see it happen so very shortly after the passage of a law that was put in place specifically to address what occurred ...” Weekes said.

The public defender says making matters even worse, like Jackson, Bretas suffers from mental illness.

“Let’s say you didn’t have any care or concern for the mother, but please could you have some compassion for the child? The unborn child,” Weekes said.

Bretas was arrested on charges involving a burglary and was pepper-sprayed while pregnant, the public defender’s office said. They say she should have been committed under the Baker Act because of her mental health, not put in a jail cell.

The Broward Sheriff’s Office says it will continue to investigate the circumstances of the child’s birth. At this point, BSO says its probe has revealed that medical staff did attend to the inmate when she delivered the child. Both the mother and child were transported to a nearby hospital.

Tony appointed Lieutenant Colonel Josefa Benjamin as acting Colonel of the Department of Detention.

About the Authors:

Christian De La Rosa joined Local 10 News in April 2017 after spending time as a reporter and anchor in Atlanta, San Diego, Orlando and Panama City Beach.