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Baby Dies Days After Prisoner Gives Birth in Isolation Cell at Texas Jail

by Matt Clarke

On May 17, 2018, baby Cashh arrived in the world, slipping out of his mother onto the floor of an isolation cell at the Ellis County Jail in Texas. Cashh survived only nine days following his traumatic and premature birth. [See: PLN, Oct. 2018, p.51]. His mother, Shaye Marie Bear, 25, had been experiencing labor for two days, but jail guards dismissed her screams of pain and a doctor misdiagnosed her condition.

Bear, an admitted methamphetamine addict, had been arrested two months earlier for drug possession. She was five months pregnant. Her bail was set at $5,000 – more than she or her family could afford.

On the morning she gave birth, Bear saw a doctor employed by Correct Care Solutions, the Tennessee-based company that contracts to provide medical care at the jail. She told the doctor that she had been experiencing labor pains for two days and full contractions for hours. The doctor measured her cervix and decided she was not in labor. He said her vaginal bleeding was likely due to an infection. 

That afternoon, Bear had a bond reduction hearing. According to a transcript, she told the judge that she had experienced contractions every five minutes all night long, had been in pain for two days and had seen a doctor that morning. The prosecutor argued that due to Bear’s history of drug use while pregnant, she should remain in jail until the baby was delivered. District Court Judge Cindy Ermatinger agreed, saying she did not believe the baby would be safe if Bear was released. 

Bear then asked the judge to be taken to an emergency room. 

“They will take you back to the jail and have the doctor look at you and see if you need to go to the emergency room,” Ermatinger responded. 

But Bear was not seen again by a doctor or transported to a hospital. Instead, she was moved to an isolation cell where her screams of pain were ignored by guards who had convinced themselves she was faking a medical problem. 

“I delivered a one-pound, two-ounce baby in that single cell screaming for hours, begging them to come and help me,” Bear said. 

After the baby arrived, Bear had to suck the afterbirth out of his nose using her mouth. She took her tiny son in her arms, crawled to the door and held him up to the window while begging the guards to help her. Still she was ignored. 

After pressing the call button a second time and making another plea for help, a guard responded and saw the baby in the window. That’s when one of the jailers asked if she had reached inside of herself and pulled the baby out. Finally, she and the baby were taken to a hospital. 

Criminal defense attorney Melinda Peel first alerted the public regarding Bear’s harrowing experience at the jail. She does not represent Bear, but a friend of another prisoner called her shortly before the birth and told her Bear had been screaming in pain for days. Peel was informed that none of the women in the jail could get any sleep due to Bear’s screaming, but the guards thought she was faking.

“They didn’t give that baby care,” said Bear’s mother, Sherry White. “That baby and my daughter have rights.” 

In fact, standards overseen by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards require local jails to have a policy for dealing with pregnant prisoners, but do not require that such prisoners be seen by a doctor with expertise in pregnancy. 

In a statement, jail officials noted that Bear had concealed drugs in her vagina when she was arrested and had previously given birth to another child while jailed in Dallas County, and accused her of having “routinely displayed antipathy toward her unborn child.” 

“We are confident there was no fault by Ellis County jail staff or medical staff,” the Sheriff’s Department said in a statement. 



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