Family Pleads to Prison: Release Dying HIV-Positive Woman

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CBS4 News 4 in Miami is reporting that the family of a dying inmate will ask the Florida parole commission on Wednesday to release her from prison and allow her to go home to her family. The woman, Betsie Gallardo, 27, is dying of cancer and has been told by doctors she has one month to live.

Gallardo is in prison on a five-year sentence for assaulting a law enforcement officer, spitting on him when she was being arrested. Gallardo was born HIV positive. Her adoptive mother, Jessica Bussert, told CBS4 News that her sentence was made harsher because she is HIV positive.  

HIV cannot be transmitted through saliva.

Gallardo is a U.S. citizen whose biological parents moved to Haiti, where she grew up.  Her father abandoned their family and her mother died, leaving both Gallardo and her sister to fend for themselves on the streets in Haiti.

According to Bussert, “Betsie’s first ten years were full of abuse, physical, sexual, starvation.  She grew up in the poorest slum this side of the planet.”

“As a young girl, Betsie always wanted to be a dancer.  Before she made some mistakes, she was enrolled in college to study therapy and dance,” said Bussert.

“I’m not saying she did no wrong, but what she did, didn’t deserve dying in prison.”

Gallardo's family claims she has had poor health care in prison, exacerbating her dire condition.

“By the time we got down here it was three weeks without any nutrition. She looked like a skeleton wrapped up in skin when I saw her,” said Bussert, who claims her daughter was also suffering from a bowel blockage and that the prison denied her intravenous fluids.

Her mother will ask Florida’s parole commission Wednesday, for the second time, to release her to her family.

“This girl is not a threat, a first offender.  This was the first time she got in legal trouble, said Bussert. “I just want to take her home to let her die with those who love her.”

As reported by CBS4, the Florida Department of Corrections issued this statement:

“We are acutely aware of Betsie Gallardo’s situation. The department recommended Gallardo for a conditional medical release in October which was turned down by the Florida Parole Commission.  On December 22nd we received a request from the Parole Commission for an updated medical report for their scheduled February meeting.  This is now in the hands of the Florida Parole Commission.  The Department has provided the Parole Board with an updated medical report.  Her hearing before the commission has been moved up to Wednesday January 5th.  We are required to provide good nutrition and medical treatment to all inmates and that is what we do,” says Jo Ellyn Rackleff.

Advocates are pressing for her release.  Meanwhile, Bussert says she also has gotten vital support from Florida lawmakers Daphne Campbell, Hazel Rogers and Ari Porth. They have written letters to the parole commission on her behalf.

The Pride Center of Ft. Lauderdale is also accepting donations for her hospice care.

If you would like to donate, you can contact the Pride Center at PO BOX 70518, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida 33307

This post was originally published at RH Reality Check, a site of news, community and commentary for reproductive healthand justice


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