A legal organization fighting for the release of pregnant and postpartum women held in the Etowah County Jail has just launched a fund to help provide local attorneys, video visitation fees and personal hygiene supplies.
Lawyers from National Advocates for Pregnant Women are serving as co-counsel with local attorneys for three women who have been incarcerated in the jail on bail they deem unconstitutional. Those charged with chemical endangerment, a charge in Alabama often applied to women who use drugs during pregnancy, are required to enter rehab in order to leave prison before trial.
As Al.com reported yesterday, those conditions locked a woman in jail for three months after she admitted to smoking marijuana early in her pregnancy. She was ineligible for rehab, according to court documents. A judge ordered that she be released to a community correctional facility three months after her arrest.
Another client, new mother Hali Burns, remained in jail for several months. She was arrested in hospital after the birth of her son because she failed two drug tests during her pregnancy. Burns disputes those test results, which she says were triggered by sinus and prescription drugs.
Burns and her family tried to get her admitted to rehab, but that effort took a hit when she failed a drug test ahead of her transfer in August. Her attorneys said Burns suffered from depression in prison and was in danger due to her exposure to drugs inside the facility.
Prosecutors defending the policy say it aims to provide treatment and help for people with substance use disorders. They argued that exposure to drug use by parents can harm babies and older children.