Betsie Gallardo is only in her 20s, but she’s dying of cancer. And she doesn’t have many days left. It’s a tragedy for anyone to die so young, but even worse, Betsie is forced to spend her last days on earth separated from her family, locked up in a miserable cell, starving to death. Unless somebody takes action to bring her home.
As Charles Davis writes on the Criminal Justice blog, Betsie’s past isn’t all frolics in the park either. Poverty in Haiti. HIV-positive from birth. Orphaned. Repeatedly raped by a police officer. Things took a positive turn after she was adopted and brought to America, but then Betsie got into a traffic accident a couple years ago. When police arrived, she had a traumatic flashback to being repeatedly sexually assaulted by an officer in Haiti, identifying the responding officers with her rapists in her panic.
“That’s when my little five-foot-nothing dancer of a daughter decided to resist arrest,” says adoptive mother Jessica. Betsie was charged with spitting on a police officer while HIV-positive, which is considered a bio-weapon, despite the little medical problem that you cannot contract HIV from saliva.
Now, Betsie is slowly dying in a Florida prison from gallbladder cancer. Jessica says that the Broward Correctional Facility has refused to give her regular access to share her daughter’s dying days. They have refused to give Betsie the appropriate IV nutrition she needs to survive, now that an intestinal blockage makes eating no longer an option, condemning her to swiftly starve to death against her wishes and those of her family. Their reason: “She’s going to die sooner or later.” Nice. I guess sooner would be cheaper for the state, right?
After a call for a Christmas miracle by Bil Browning of The Bilerco Project, in-depth coverage by other outlets, and hundreds of emails from Change.org members, Jessica wrote in a letter on Christmas Eve revealing that she was suddenly being allowed to see her daughter and that “all of your calls and emails have made a huge impact!” The Florida Department of Corrections is now saying that of course Betsie’s family can see her whenever they want, but that it’s the nasty Parole Commission keeping her locked up at all.
The Parole Commission, meanwhile, moved Betsie’s hearing from February — by which time she’d already be dead — to January 5th. But, Jessica counsels, “there is a lot of work to go if we are going to get our daughter home before it’s too late.” As Bil Browning writes: “we have to keep Betsie alive long enough to attend that hearing.” Betsie and Jessica need your help. Please sign this petition asking that Betsie be granted medical clemency, allowing her to spend her final days in the company of family and friends, and that she be provided with IV nutrients to keep her from starving before then.
Photo credit: Tim Pearce, Los Gatos