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Broward sheriff blames clerical error for pregnant woman still in jail when she gave birth

Chief Assistant Public Defender reacts to letter, saying Gregory Tony is trying to shift focus

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A woman who gave birth inside a Broward jail cell should have been released days before she had her baby under a pre-trial program, according to a letter written by Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony sent to the Broward Public Defender’s office.

North Broward inmate 28-year-old Stephanie Bretas delivered her baby boy last month in a jail cell.

Tony’s letter said that her release was delayed because of a mistake made by the public defender’s office when someone put the wrong case number on paperwork.

The letter was in response to correspondence from Gordon Weekes, Chief Assistant Public Defender, sent to Tony stating concerns about the woman’s treatment while in custody. Tony pointed out that while Weekes' letter questioned the level of force used on Bretas and other alleged failings by BSO’s Office Department of Detention, the public defenders' office made a crucial error.

(See the complete letter below)

Tony wrote: “On Sept. 24, 3 days prior to Ms. Bretas giving birth, your office obtained an order to release her under the supervision of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Pretrial program. However, in preparing the order, your office included an incorrect case number, which caused a delay in her release while a corrected order was secured. The corrected order was received by the jail after Ms. Bretas had already given birth.”

Tony terminated Col. Gary Palmer and Lt. Col. Angela Neely over the incident. The sheriff said he does share Weekes' concerns about the treatment that inmates are receiving in jail.

Weekes reacted to the letter, telling Local 10: “It is highly offensive for the sheriff to try to shift the focus to a clerical error that does not in any way justify the pain that Bretas had to endure during childbirth.”

On Wednesday, demonstrators marched up to the front doors of the Broward Sheriff’s Office headquarters in Fort Lauderdale not letting heavy downpours stop them. The group was calling for cultural change and better medical care for inmates in custody.

“She had screamed for hours for help and it wasn’t until the moment when she gave birth that she actually got assistance,” Ruddy Turnstone, an organizer of Wednesday’s march to the sheriff’s headquarters, said about Bretas.

“What happened to Stephanie and what happened to Tammy should have never happened inside of those jails,” march organizer Marq Mitchell said.

There’s now a law named after Tammy Jackson, who also delivered a baby in a Broward jail cell in April of last year. The law makes it illegal for pregnant inmates to be denied medical checkups while in custody.


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