A few weeks ago, I somehow discovered Dr. Danielle Jones, an OB-GYN from Texas who has a super cool YouTube channel. I really appreciated her video about the abortion ban in Texas, and why it will put so many women at risk. I shared that video multiple times, and it’s important enough that I’m going to share it again.
Yesterday, as our bathrooms were getting repairs, I found myself watching more of her videos. I initially really tried to resist the lure of Mama Doctor Jones, but she’s adorable, funny, and warm. Hell, I haven’t seen a doctor in about eleven years, but if I found one like her, I might make a change. She really seems personable. That impression was especially strong when I watched a video she made, reacting to a video done by a woman who was forced to give birth while she was in prison.
A few months ago, Mama Doctor Jones shared a reaction video she produced after a bunch of her followers sent her a video made by Jessica Kent, a popular YouTuber. I watched this video yesterday, not expecting that I would end it feeling so emotional. I’ve never made it a secret that I am generally uncomfortable with the way many people tend to view prison inmates as “less than human”. This video, which isn’t even the original, really drives home that point. Yes, prisoners deserve punishment, but not at the expense of decency and humanity.
In October 2011, Ms. Kent, who is originally from New York, was arrested in Fort Smith, Arkansas for drug and gun charges. When I heard she had lived in Fort Smith, I was immediately interested. Bill and Ex lived in Fort Smith at the time of their divorce. It was the location of a lot of trauma for Bill, too.
Anyway, Jessica was high at the time of her arrest, and had no idea that she was pregnant by her then Laotian drug dealing boyfriend. But she was feeling sick and it wasn’t getting better, so she visited medical staff at the jail. Since she was detoxing from hard drugs that she was using intravenously, Jessica thought that was the issue. She was wrong. A very busy nurse, who had a lot of other inmates waiting to be seen, bluntly broke the news to Jessica that she was expecting. She was sent back to her cell.
Two hours later, Jessica was loudly told she had to be moved from her cell because she was pregnant. Dr. Jones is shocked by that treatment, correctly pointing out that Jessica’s pregnancy would put her at risk in a prison environment. It’s also no one else’s business. Jessica then explains why it was dangerous for the guard to let people she was pregnant. During her three month stay at the county jail, Jessica was not given any prenatal vitamins, nor was she taken to a doctor. It wasn’t until the guards realized she wasn’t going anywhere that they needed to have her examined.
Jessica explains that she realizes that she broke the law and deserved to be punished, but the doctors’ visits were completely humiliating. She was dressed in her orange garb, completely shackled and cuffed, and forced to sit in the waiting room of a free clinic with everyone staring at her, whispering, and taking pictures. And while I don’t necessarily think that someone in jail should necessarily expect private accommodations in medical facilities, I do think this scenario is a reminder to people that inmates are human beings. If you wouldn’t point, whisper, and take photos of a regular person, you shouldn’t do it to an inmate, either. Besides being tacky and rude, it’s also potentially dangerous. Jessica says the nurses also had no respect for her privacy, and were not respecting her patient’s rights.
When she was six months pregnant, Jessica was sent to prison. She was taken in a van, completely shackled. And even though her condition made her need to pee every twenty minutes or so, she was not allowed to use the bathroom. I wonder how she managed to deal with that. Poor thing… and yes I say that, even though I know she broke the law and was being punished.
At the prison, Jessica was required to squat and cough. But she was six months pregnant, so it was physically impossible for her. The guards screamed at her, then made her sit on the floor cross-legged for six hours. I have never been pregnant myself, but I can imagine how difficult it must have been for her to move at that stage of her pregnancy. I can’t believe the guards wouldn’t understand that. But maybe a lot of them are not much better people than some of the folks they’re guarding. I understand the need for strict security, but it disturbs me that the guards seem to lose their humanity and common sense. At least in some places…
Jessica was repeatedly told she would lose custody of her baby forever. She was totally despondent and upset hearing that. Even if it was true, and in her case, it wasn’t, that kind of stress, along with all of the other stresses of being locked up, could not have been good for the baby. Jessica was so freaked out about the prospect of losing her baby that she tried to deny being in labor. She wasn’t ready to lose her child.
Another inmate noticed Jessica’s condition, so she alerted the guards, who made her walk to the infirmary in full blown labor. When she gets to the door, she had to be buzzed through three doors. She’s in agony, but the nurses told her they had to wait until “shift change” before she could go to the hospital. It makes me wonder what happens in that prison facility when someone is having a life threatening emergency.
Jessica was bleeding, so the nurses put her in a wheelchair with a pad on it. She sat alone in that chair for about three hours, bleeding. It was her first baby, so she was terrified and in extreme agony. The ambulance shows up, takes her to the hospital, and was fortunately sent with a somewhat kind correctional officer. But the nurses at the hospital were rude and condescending to Jessica. They didn’t speak directly to Jessica; they only spoke to the guard. Then, when the baby was born, Jessica didn’t want to look at her, because she was afraid she would fall in love with her and that would break her heart.
The correctional officer, much to her credit, ordered her to look at the baby. Jessica looked at the baby and fell in love with her… and, in fact, I think that may have saved Jessica’s life. I think it gave her a reason to straighten out her life. That baby girl gave Jessica some hope. This was the bittersweet point in the story at which I got really choked up. It also made me feel sad that I never got to experience that for myself.
A couple of hours later, a guard noticed that Jessica’s leg wasn’t chained to the bed. The guard stated it was “policy” as she chained Jessica, even though Jessica couldn’t walk anyway. A doctor told the guard that it would do Jessica some good to be able to walk, but the guard restated that chaining her was “policy”. They completely ignored Jessica’s rights as a patient, which she maintained, even though she was incarcerated. Jessica was not allowed out of the bed unless she was going to the bathroom. And given the atmosphere, Jessica was actually afraid to ask to use the toilet.
A doctor later tried to give Jessica some Percocet for her pain. Jessica asked for ibuprofen and strong coffee, because she thought she was going to get just 24 hours to see her baby. But the doctor very kindly told Jessica she was going to give her another 24 hours to bond with her daughter. That time passed very quickly. Two big guards showed up to take Jessica back to prison. Naturally, the “mama bear” instincts came out… the guards basically threatened her and Jessica came to her senses. And Jessica said to the baby, “I’ll be back for you…”
Heartbreaking… and again, perhaps the point at which, deep down, she decided she needed to get straight. It must have seemed like an insurmountable challenge, and yet she still managed to do it. I am very impressed by Jessica’s fortitude. So many other people would never have been able to make that climb.
When it came time for Jessica’s release, the guards handled her roughly and took her back to the prison. Her milk came in, which was physically very painful, and she became despondent. But Jessica was smart enough not to express the suicidal thoughts that were in her head, because she knew it would mean being stripped, put in a “pickle” suit, and thrown into a dark, horrible cell, where she would sit for 72 hours, alone, but observed. Jessica had to wrap tight ACE bandages around her breasts to make the milk go away.
Jessica didn’t see her baby for six months. The foster baby kindly sent photos of the baby, but they were sent back, since inmates were only permitted to have five photos in their possession.
Much to her credit, Jessica worked very hard to keep the promise she made to her baby, once she got out of prison. It took a couple of years, but Jessica eventually did succeed in getting full custody of her daughter, Micah. She is now a very popular YouTuber. I haven’t had a chance to watch a lot of her videos yet, since I only discovered her yesterday, but I think she’s going to be yet another YouTube personality I follow. I’m impressed by how bright and articulate she is, and how she’s managed to turn her life around, against all odds. I’m also interested in prison reform and true crime.
Isn’t it interesting how one thing leads to another? I only recently discovered Mama Doctor Jones, and now I’ve discovered Jessica Kent through Mama Doctor Jones and her followers. I enjoyed hearing what an actual doctor has to say about Jessica’s case. I, myself, have had just one encounter with an OB-GYN and it was a horrific nightmare. What would have happened if I’d had a compassionate doctor like Dr. Jones when I had my first “female” exam? Anyway… I appreciated watching this video. I also enjoyed watching Dr. Jones’s video about giving birth to her fourth baby, which really gave an interesting perspective of her experience as a patient.
YouTube is an amazing vehicle. So many talented people, who otherwise never would have had a chance to blossom, now have this incredible medium in which to get their voices heard. If I weren’t so camera shy, maybe I would try it myself. But I don’t like feeling like I have to be camera ready, so I stick to blogging… and sometimes I think I don’t come across in my blog the way I really am.
Any readers who know me offline can tell me what they think about that. I probably come off as dumber in person. 😉 You can take that as you wish.