National Advocates for Pregnant Women is fighting for systemic change to unconstitutional bond conditions that have kept pregnant and postpartum women jailed indefinitely in Etowah County Jail on "chemical endangerment of a child" charges in Alabama. We have secured the release of five women as they await trial, but donations are still needed for fees and local counsel in their ongoing cases. As many as seven women remain unlawfully detained.
NAPW clients Hali Burns, Ashley Banks, and Jordyn McClain as well as Olivia Leal and Jessica Brown, whose cases we supported, spent months in jail separated from their young children without in-person visits, as the jail doesn't allow them, before their release. Their children were placed in foster care or with relatives. Even after their release, they struggle to regain custody of their children.
Etowah County held these women and others on the same unconstitutional bond requirements: $10,000 cash bond and inpatient drug treatment, even before they were assessed for substance use disorder. They remained jailed before trial because no treatment beds were available.
Although judges have started ordering different bond conditions — after NAPW legal advocacy — women who cannot afford a lower bond, court-mandated monitoring, drug-testing fees, and other fees will still be detained. We started the Etowah County Jail Pregnant/Postpartum Relief Fund to support them. Your donation will pay for local counsel and case fees.
Ms. Burns was released on September 12 after two months of unlawful pretrial detention. She was arrested in the hospital six days after giving birth after she tested positive for substances during pregnancy. The test results can be attributed to legally prescribed medication. In jail, she was denied visits with her newborn and toddler, was denied pads for postpartum bleeding, was denied postpartum care, and suffered from severe depression.
Ms. Banks was released on August 25 after sleeping on a jail floor for three months during her high-risk pregnancy. She was arrested when the police found a small baggie of marijuana in her car. The jail initially ignored her medical concerns before she was twice shackled and rushed to a hospital. Her family's bond payment was rejected because she was required to go to inpatient treatment, but a court-ordered assessment found she does not have a substance use disorder. Ms. Banks was separated from her 3-year-old son during this ordeal.
This should never have happened to these women. Call Etowah County District Attorney Jody Willoughby at 256-549-5362 and say: "Stop using your office's resources to pursue these cases! Alabama's chemical endangerment law was never meant to apply to pregnancy. Separating mothers from babies with impossible bond conditions harms the people you claim to care about. Every leading medical and public health organization condemns criminalizing pregnancy and drug use."
Thank you for joining NAPW in the fight for the humanity and rights of pregnant and postpartum Alabamians.