A pregnant woman incarcerated at the Muscogee County Jail on multiple traffic violations was set free after the Southern Center for Human Rights filed a petition for her release, according to the nonprofit organization.
Kiana Adams, who is 8 months pregnant with her first child, was arrested and jailed May 9 after she received traffic citations for lacking a valid car tag, insurance and driver’s license.
With a court-appointed attorney, the 21-year-old appeared before Columbus Recorder’s Court Judge Michael P. Cielinski the next day to face traffic violations.
Cielinski found Adams guilty of the three charges and imposed 100 days in jail, suspended on payment of $1000 plus probation.
“Here’s a woman who comes before the court and no one inquires into the fact or even mentions the fact that she’s clearly in the advanced stages of pregnancy,” SCHR attorney Sarah Geraghty said.
In two further hearings, the court revoked approximately 70 days of an existing probation sentence (also for traffic tickets), suspended on payment of approximately $3,613.
In total, Adams was sentenced to spend 100 days in jail or pay a fine of about $4,613, according to SCHR.
Months prior to the incident, Adams worked at a Subway making approximately $100 per week. She previously worked nights as a temp at Wal-Mart.
Adams and her family were homeless for several months in 2015, according to the human rights group.
Geraghty said Adams tried to tell the court that she couldn’t afford to immediately pay the fine, but it was “very difficult to get a word in.”
“She was trying to do the right thing, and she’s a hard-working person,” the SCHR attorney said.
Geraghty said Adams, whose due date is June 21, missed several appointments with her doctor because of her incarceration.
While in jail, she was housed in an isolation cell and slept on an uncomfortable portable bed on the floor despite the fact that doctors said she was due to deliver her daughter at any time, according to SCHR.
If she were to give birth, Adams would have been separated from her newborn for a month or more, the attorney said.
“In a civilized society, we do not separate a mom from her newborn infant over traffic debt,”Geraghty said. “It’s as plain and simple as that. This is a case where the punishment did not fit the crime.”
SCHR filed a habeas corpus petition that argued that Recorder’s Court violated the U.S. Constitution and Georgia law by jailing her without asking about her ability to pay or considering alternatives to jail. It also argued that jailing Adams during her final month of pregnancy was “grossly disproportionate” to the severity of her offenses.
“As a result of the Recorder’s Court policies and practices, it is not possible to obtain meaningful appellate review of most types of errors,” the petition states. “Similarly, it is not possible to obtain a meaning hearing from Recorder’s Court itself.”
With consent from Muscogee County Sheriff John Darr, the Superior Court ordered on May 20 that Adams be released from jail. The consent order states that she is “an indigent pregnant woman who is unable to pay the amount set for her release.”
She has since been placed on probation, the attorney confirmed.
When asked if Adams plans to take any legal action following the incident, Geraghty said that has yet to be determined.
“Adams is glad to be released, and her focus for the moment is welcoming her new baby,” Geraghty said.