In Oklahoma, Baby Born in Prison Fell Through Social Welfare Net


A federal civil lawsuit over the death of a toddler born to an Oklahoma prison inmate raises questions about the oversight of children born to those circumstances, reports the Tulsa World. Erica Michelle Marie Green was born in May 1997 at University of Oklahoma Medical Center to an inmate mother. After the birth, the mother went back to prison and told officials to give the newborn to an acquaintance, who showed a driver’s license and Sam’s Club membership card to gain custody, according to the lawsuit. No calls were made to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services for an assessment, basic background check or plan for reuniting with the mother, the suit alleges. Within three years, the girl was murdered from a blow to the head.

Erica was found naked, wrapped in a blanket and beheaded in April 2001 in Kansas City. She was known as Precious Doe as the unsolved case received national attention. In May 2005, her identity was determined. Her mother, Michelle Johnson, and stepfather, Harrell Johnson, were arrested for the murder. Tulsa attorney Paul DeMuro, who is representing Erica’s father in the civil suit, said DHS had multiple previous contacts with Johnson, and the Oklahoma Department of Corrections should take more precautions with babies born to mothers in prison.

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