Eight months pregnant and making $400 per month at her Subway job, Kiana Adams faced the gamble so many folks do when they are living on subsistence wages. Skip paying for legally required items — like a current tag and insurance — to squeeze enough money out of meager earnings to keep the lights on, pay rent and put food in the fridge for herself and her family.
Over $4,000 in traffic ticket fines later, a very pregnant Adams was sentenced to 100 days in jail, unless she could find a way to pay.
After spending eleven days on an uncomfortable portable bed in an isolation cell, an attorney with the Southern Center for Human Rights was able to get her released.
The petition for her release reads:
“Only because she is indigent, Kiana Adams will soon give birth to a daughter, her first child, while incarcerated in the Muscogee County Jail.”
Neither Adams’ court appointed attorney nor the judge inquired into her ability to pay these fines or her pregnancy. Indigent defendants deserve better treatment than this.
Had Adams given birth while in custody she would have been separated from her daughter for at least the first month of her daughter’s life. Georgia also continues to allow the problematic practice of shackling pregnant women while they give birth.
As her petition notes, keeping her in jail over traffic fines, while so late in her pregnancy, is an egregious violation of her civil rights, with significant consequences for the economic stability and health of her family.
As Adams’ petition notes:
“[K]eeping Adams in jail likely will cause her to lose her job and exacerbate her already unstable family and financial situation…Moreover, Adams’s sentence will not only require her to give birth while incarcerated but will also prevent her from caring for her infant daughter for a month or more after she is born.”
Adams never should have been locked up over traffic fines. This isn’t a justice system that makes anyone in Georgia safer. Instead, a pregnant person struggling to make ends meet was punished simply for the reality of her situation, for the reality of living in poverty. It shouldn’t take intervention from a human rights group to prevent these unjust detentions from happening.