Things That Matter

This Woman Was Forced To Give Birth In A Jail Cell Without Medical Attention, Now She’s Suing

On the topic of imprisonment and the people behind bars, oftentimes the most vulnerable group isn’t the most visible. It’s no secret that black and brown men are unjustifiably locked up, but minority women are as well. A 2014 report published by the Vera Institute of Justice and The Safety and Justice Challenge showed that minority women are being locked more than any other group, and many of them are mothers, and thousands of them are pregnant. How does the correctional facility handle these women? Appallingly. 

A 27-year-old woman gave birth alone while behind bars and received no medical care during her entire labor. 

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Diana Sanchez was locked up at eight months pregnant on identity theft charges. The report by the Vera Institute shows that most women are jailed for nonviolent crimes, so it is unclear why they couldn’t help Sanchez as she was not a threat to anyone. On July 30, she was examined by a nurse who in turn told her “that she needed to receive immediate medical attention if she ‘started having contractions if she had noticed any fluid leaking from her vagina,'” USA Today reports. 

For the next several hours Sanchez pleaded for help. She called on anyone that could hear her that she was having contractions, but no one ever came. 

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According to the New York Times, at least one person did come to her door. The video footage shows that someone slid a white mat under Sanchez’s cell door. How would a mat help during this process? Minutes later, her baby was born. He was born at a little over five pounds. Medical personal did attend to the baby after he was born. Her due date was still more than a week away. Yes, this is cruel but is it illegal for prison officials to not provide medical attention to someone who is in desperate need of help, let alone to someone who is in labor?  

An attorney for Sanchez said it is illegal for prison officials to turn their back on a pregnant woman in labor, and that is why they’re filing a lawsuit. 

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“What should have been one of the happiest days of her life was instead a day of unnecessary terror, pain, and humiliation,” the lawsuit said. Sanchez is suing the city and county of Denver, Denver Health and Hospital Authority, and six individuals — two nurses and four sheriff’s deputies. 

Her lawyer, Mari Newman, said her client is traumatized over what happened to her in jail. If some women experience postpartum depression after they give birth, just imagine the pain that Sanchez must be under after experiencing such trauma. 

“Diana is struggling,” Newman said in an interview with the New York Times. “She continues to flash back to the event. She was absolutely petrified, and nobody would do anything to give her the medical care that she so obviously needed. This is the kind of trauma that doesn’t go away.”

In response to this lawsuit, the Denver Sheriff Department released this statement to the New York Times, “To make sure nothing like this happens again, the Denver Sheriff Department has changed its policies to ensure that pregnant inmates who are in any stage of labor are now transported immediately to the hospital.”

They also report that after an internal investigation, their employees acted in accordance with their policy. In other words, not helping a woman who is behind bars and is in labor is proper protocol. Sanchez has since been released and is at home recovering with her baby boy. 

More than 12,000 pregnant women are put behind bars every year, the American Civil Liberties Union reports. Some of them are forced to have their babies while being shackled to their bed. 

Credit: Unsplash 

“I felt like a farm animal,” Michelle Aldana said of her experience giving birth while in prison and chained to her hospital bed. 

Each state has different laws that either requires women to be shackled en route to the hospital or while giving birth but this there is no hard law across the board, which gives way for major liberties when it comes to pregnant women in jails. 

Democratic lawmakers have tried to pass the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act which would allow prison officials to remove the women’s cuff and chains while giving birth, but only some states have agreed to this policy. 

Furthermore, researchers from Johns Hopkins Medicine say that more than 90 percent of women who have their babies in jail ended in live births with no maternal deaths. But what about the 10 percent? We must look at what is causing those children to die.

READ: Cyntoia Brown Was Finally Released From Prison After 15 Years – This Is What Resistance Looks Like

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