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Inmate who gave birth on ventilator dies of Covid-19

A person on a ventilator in a US hospital

A US federal prison inmate who gave birth while she was on a ventilator has died of Covid-19.

Andrea Circle Bear, 30, died on 28 April while serving a 26-month sentence for a drug charge in South Dakota.

There have now been 30 coronavirus-related deaths of federal inmates, and more than 1,300 confirmed cases according to the Bureau of Prisons.

She appears to be the first federal female inmate to have died with coronavirus.

There are around 150,000 federal inmates in the US. A federal inmate is someone inside a prison or jail operated by the federal government as opposed to a particular state.

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It is not clear how many inmates have died in state-run prisons.

The Marshall Project, a non-profit news organisation which reports on the US criminal justice system, gathered data from state and federal prison agencies across the US and estimated there have been more than 9,400 cases and 131 coronavirus-related deaths.

Concerns over coronavirus have put pressure on US prison authorities to release inmates in order to prevent infections from spreading.

‘Pre-existing condition’

Circle Bear was in prison for charges related to distributing methamphetamines filed by the US government in April 2018, to which she pleaded guilty.

She was moved from a jail in South Dakota to a federal prison and medical facility in Fort Worth, Texas on 20 March for undisclosed reasons, and quarantined as required by the prison for all new inmates.

The following week, she was taken to hospital over concerns about her pregnancy. She was discharged later that day.

However, she was hospitalised a few days later after displaying Covid-like symptoms and placed on a ventilator.

The next day her child was born by Caesarean section. She died on 28 April after testing positive for coronavirus earlier this month- the thirtieth federal inmate to die of Covid-19, and believed to be the first woman.

The US Federal Bureau of Prisons said in a statement she had a pre-existing medical condition, but did not give further details.

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There are 1,625 female inmates at the Federal Medical Center Carswell where Circle Bear was quarantined.

A danger for prisoners?

Reform campaigners say prisoners face unique risks, due to a lack of hygiene in overcrowded cells and hallways.

The US has a greater proportion of imprisoned citizens than any other country, with an estimated 2.3 million people behind bars.

US jails and prisons began releasing inmates in March over concerns about the spread of coronavirus between prisoners and staff.

Later that month, the Attorney General advised federal prisons to transfer inmates to home confinement where possible if they are deemed to be non-violent and at-risk for coronavirus.

Following this directive, the Bureau of Prisons has placed 1,751 inmates on home confinement.

However, Circle Bear did not appear to be considered a priority for early release. The Bureau of Prisons did not give details on the status of her baby.

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