LaVandra Rushing was three months pregnant at the time she was incarcerated in the Dallas County jail in May of 2014. Prior to that, her own physician was monitoring her high risk pregnancy. While incarcerated, LaVandra had medical problems and was hospitalized several times. Her mother Sandra advocated for her daughter and repeatedly put money in her commissary account because of insufficient food. LaVandra’s baby girl was born in November, 2014, and went home with her grandmother. Since she was released, LaVandra has been raising her baby girl.
September 28, 2014,
My daughter LaVandra Rushing is needing help. She is not getting the proper care at the Lew Sterret jail [Dallas County Jail]. My daughter has been sent to Parkland Hospital about 3 times and they did not keep her for observation. At first she was bleeding in her placenta. The hospital did not do anything about it and released her and she went back to jail.
My daughter has a high risk pregnancy. She supposed to be having her baby in October of 2014 and now they are telling my daughter that the baby is only three pounds. …She is not getting the nutrients that she needs for herself and the baby. …
LaVandra is having serious medical conditions where she was in a wheel chair for a while and now she do not have a wheel chair and barely can walk. She was told by the jail that they could not prove her with a walker …
My daughter has been in jail every since May of 2014 and nobody seems to care. I constantly try to keep [money] on her books for commissary but when she goes to Parkland Hospital for having complication with her pregnancy …..
They deduct money from her commissary to pay for going to Parkland Hospital.
My daughter is really suffering. I am very concern about my daughter and the unborn child's health.
Thank you for the Authorization for the Release of Medical Information form. I want to say Thank You for your support and help!
Sandra visited her daughter again and wrote this:
I went to see my daughter Saturday October 11, 2014. She told me she would have to ask other inmates for their fruits and vegetable to eat because she is not getting the proper foods ….Every day for lunch it is bologna sandwiches. There should be a special menu for pregnant women that are in jail.
The Jail Commission sent a letter to Texas Jail Project, in response to a TJP complaint on behalf of Sandra, LaVandra’s mother, October 10, 2014.
The pro forma letter stated, in the exact language as most of these letters, “No violation of jail standards has occurred. HIPAA rules will not allow me to share confidential medical details with you or any other family member. What I can inform you is that [inmate] Rushing is receiving adequate medical attention."
However, in a departure from most of these form letters, the staffer went on to quote the doctor who was treating LaVandra as saying that , "Sandra Rushing [her mother] is satisfied with the course of treatment [inmate] Rushing is receiving."
At this time, Texas Jail Project staff was in constant contact with Sandra and had firsthand knowledge of how unhappy and worried Sandra was about the medical care and food LaVandra was receiving.
For nearly six months of her pregnancy, LaVandra was an inmate in the Dallas County Jail, and her little girl, now 17 months old, was born with a foot deformity that one doctor attributed to poor diet.
“They should give you more food than they do and more nutritious food,” says LaVandra Rushing.
In the 2015 story “Right to Birth” in the Austin Chronicle, editor Amy Kamp discussed LaVandra’s reports on her experience at Dallas County Jail during her pregnancy:
While many of these women don't want to make their stories public, LaVandra Rushing, who is currently serving a sentence at the Dallas County Jail and who gave birth to a daughter late last year while in custody, has been open about her experience – as much as she can be while confined to a jail cell. Her mother, Sandra Rushing, contacted TJP in September after becoming convinced that LaVandra wasn't receiving adequate nutrition and medical attention during her pregnancy.
The Rushings' experience illustrates just how difficult it can be for an inmate and her family to call attention to concerns about standards of care. After TJP made a complaint with TCJS on behalf of LaVandra, they received a letter from the commission, dated Oct. 10, 2014. "No violation of jail standards has occurred," the letter declared. "HIPAA rules will not allow me to share confidential medical details with you or any other family member. What I can inform you is that [inmate] Rushing is receiving adequate medical attention." The letter went on to say that, according to the doctor treating LaVandra, "Sandra Rushing is satisfied with the course of treatment [inmate] Rushing is receiving."
It's a curious statement, in light of Sandra's repeated efforts to get better care for her daughter and unborn granddaughter. While Sandra has given both TJP and the Chronicle as much information about her daughter as she can, HIPAA laws and jail bureaucracy have kept her from acquiring LaVandra's medical records – the only written documentation of whatever care LaVandra received – although she told the Chronicle in an interview this week, that she hopes to get copies soon. She and LaVandra continue to have complaints – LaVandra, during an interview conducted at the Dallas County Jail last December, said that, due to a lack of clean linens and underwear, she was having trouble caring for her episiotomy wound. LaVandra said that her public defender has been sympathetic to her situation, but the process of trying to get her sentence reduced in light of the circumstances has moved slowly.
Sandra, who both works full time and cares for LaVandra's children, does what she can for her daughter. But without the money to hire a private attorney or the time to travel to Austin, the Rushings' complaints may go without further investigation. The women hope that doesn't happen. "I don't want anybody else to have to go through this," LaVandra said.
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