In Maine, an HIV+ woman charged with falsifying immigration documents has been sentenced to remain in jail until the birth of her baby because the judge is concerned that she won’t receive proper prenatal HIV medication if deported. But even the woman’s prosecutors object.
Both the federal prosecutor and the defense attorney urged the judge to sentence Tuleh to 114 days, or time served, according to a transcript of the sentencing hearing. Woodcock instead ignored the federal sentencing guidelines and calculated her sentence to coincide with her due date. Federal prosecutors have appealed the sentence to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston. The court has agreed to deal with the case on an expedited schedule and could hear oral arguments in late July. Woodcock told Tuleh at her sentencing on May 14 in U.S. District Court that he was not imposing the longer prison term to punish her further but to protect her unborn child. He said that the defendant was more likely to receive medical treatment and follow a drug regimen in federal prison than out on her own or in the custody of immigration officials.
In most cases of immigration fraud, offenders are sentenced to time served in order to expedite a rapid deportation. (Some say this is done in order to fend off any potential appeals.) Joining the dissent in the above case is the Maine Civil Liberties Union.
“Judges cannot lock a woman up simply because she is sick and pregnant. Judges have enormous discretion in imposing sentences, and that is appropriate. But jailing someone is punishment — it is depriving them of liberty. That deprivation has to be justified, and illness or pregnancy is not justification for imprisonment.”
(Tipped by JMG reader Zandt)