15-year-old says she became pregnant in New Orleans jail

Friday, August 15, 2014 - 10:52am

City officials in New Orleans are looking into an allegation that a 15-year-old girl became pregnant in a juvenile detention facility.

NBC’s New Orleans affiliate WDSU, has learned the mother of the teenager called for the investigation after, recently speaking with her daughter.

"She called and said 'ma'am,' and I said 'what?' and she said 'I'm pregnant,'" Deborah Smallwood said. "And I said, 'you pregnant? How'd you get pregnant in that facility?'"

Smallwood’s daughter was arrested earlier this year arrest on armed robbery charges, and is being held at the city’s Youth Study Center.

The facility is part jail and part school, for underage offenders. Both boys and girls are held at the center.

This summer, a new Youth Study Center opened as part of a juvenile justice complex that is being built at Bayou St. John.

The new facility brings the city into compliance with directives that grew from a class action lawsuit filed several years ago. It pointed out shortcomings in the old center, which sustained serious damage from Hurricane Katrina.

Problems at the old Youth Study Center included building safety issues, food and medical concerns and policies or activities that included the use of shackles on teenage detainees.

It was not immediately clear whether Smallwood's daughter claims to have become pregnant from a sexual encounter at the old facility or the new one. She told her mother she engaged in intercourse with a male inmate about two months ago.

That's close to the time the new facility opened.

"That should never have happened," Smallwood told WDSU. "There should be someone over her or watching at all times.

"It should never have happened... period."

A spokesperson for the City of New Orleans said officials are aware of the claims and are investigating.

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