Inmate from South Dakota who gave birth while on ventilator has died: feds

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A pregnant inmate on a ventilator due to coronavirus died after delivering her baby by cesarean section in federal custody, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) said Tuesday.

Andrea Circle Bear, 30, was in prison serving a 26-month sentence for dealing methamphetamine and had been brought to FMC Carswell, a federal prison medical facility in Fort Worth, Texas, on March 20 from a local jail in South Dakota. As a new inmate in the federal prison system, she was quarantined as part of the BOP’s plan to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

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She was taken to a local hospital on March 28 for “potential concerns regarding her pregnancy,” but was discharged from the hospital the same day and brought back to the prison, officials said. Three days later, medical staff members at the prison decided she should be brought back to the hospital after she developed a fever, dry cough and other symptoms indicative of COVID-19, according to the BOP.

Circle Bear was put on a ventilator the same day she arrived at the hospital and her baby was born the next day by C-section, officials said. She tested positive for COVID-19 days later, on April 4.

She is the 29th federal inmate to die in BOP custody since late March. As of Tuesday, more than 1,700 federal inmates have tested positive for COVID-19. About 400 of those inmates have recovered from the virus.

In early April, Attorney General William Barr directed the bureau to prioritize home confinement for prisoners in low- and minimum-security facilities who pose no safety threat to the community and have a low likelihood of recidivism in an effort to free up space in prisons and stop the spread of coronavirus.

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The agency, under the new guidelines, prioritized the release of inmates who already served between 25 percent and half of their sentence, or those who have 18 months or less left.

Under the new mandate, Circle Bear would not have qualified for home confinement because she had been sentenced in January after she pleaded guilty to charges that she “unlawfully and knowingly used and maintained a place for the purpose of distributing methamphetamine on the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation,” the Justice Department said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.