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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Loss of Gainesville woman's baby born in jail sparks community protest

Erica Thompson, 25, said her screams for help were ignored for hours

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About 50 protesters gathered outside of Alachua County Jail Wednesday afternoon in unity with grieving mother Erica Thompson, a 25-year-old woman who lost her baby after giving birth in jail. 

Screams for help went unnoticed for hours until after her child was born and she was taken to UF Shands Hospital — where she watched her newborn, Ava, die in her arms, Thompson wrote in a Facebook post Tuesday. 

“About 11pm last night I delivered my child by myself all alone in my jail cell in my bed,” she wrote. “They finally believed me when they walked in and I was holding my child.”

Danielle Chanzes, a Florida Prisoner Solidarity member and one of the organizers of the protest, said she was horrified to find out a mother’s cry for help wasn't enough to save the newborn baby.

Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, the agency investigating the incident, stated it could not discuss an ongoing administrative investigation as of Thursday. It is unclear when any surveillance footage will be released.

“There's video evidence and there's a lot of documentation and there's a lot of people involved in this,” Kaley Behl, ACSO policy and accreditation supervisor, said. “I think if people wait for the investigation to play out, where it can release everything and let everyone see what really happened, that you will find that it’s a very different story than it was initially been told.” 

UF Health did not respond for comment as of Thursday.

Thompson was arrested Monday on a probation violation and traffic charge, according to an ACSO Facebook post

Thompson’s baby was “delivered with assistance from medical and detention staff” prior to EMS arriving, ACSO wrote on Facebook. 

“Unfortunately, the child later passed away at the hospital and we are deeply saddened by Ms. Thompson’s experience of the loss of her child,” the post read. 

A Florida Prisoner Solidarity Facebook post linked a GoFundMe page stating Thompson’s baby was murdered due to the jail’s neglect.

“There are no words to describe the pain this mother is feeling,” the GoFundMe post read. “This BLOOD is on the State’s hands.”

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Florida Prisoner Solidarity’s GoFundMe is for food, transportation and postpartum care while Thompson grieves. 

Chanzes said she plans on hosting more events like the protest to support Thompson as she seeks legal help. 

“We’re advocating to not see babies die in jail cells,” Chanzes said. “To not see people born in jail cells, period.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates. 

Contact Isabella Douglas at idouglas@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @Ad_Scribendum

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Isabella Douglas

Isabella Douglas is a second-year journalism major and the criminal justice reporter for The Alligator's Metro desk. She previously worked as a news assistant for The Alligator's University team and as a contributing writer for the New Tampa & Wesley Chapel Neighborhood News. When she isn't reporting, she can be found reorganizing her bookshelf and adding books to her ever-growing TBR.


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