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Pregnancy Health Care Rights—CA & TX

Jun 12th, 2014 | Category: Wichita Falls, Women and Jails
In California, as in Texas, they are fighting for the rights of the incarcerated women who are pregnant!  Here is an article from the powerful prisoners’ rights group Legal Services for Prisoners with Children! Texas jail Project plans  to have a conversation with LSPC soon.
Committee Work to Expand Pregnancy Health Care Rights for Incarcerated Women 
 By Harriette Davis
Last November LSPC convened organizations and advocates to launch a new strategy for improving health care for pregnant and post postpartum women in California jails and prisons.

The resulting working group has established three committees to determine strategies to ensure the health and well-being of pregnant women – and all women – in prison and jails. The committees have the following goals:

Prop 47 Committee: exploring how savings generated by the initiative can be used to help women prisoners, particularly in terms of alternative custody programs for pregnant prisoners.

Legislation Committee: looking at ways that legislation and legislative hearings can support pregnant prisoners’ needs and expand their rights.

Communications Committee: shifting the paradigm around who people think women prisoners are, and figuring out how to get legislative campaigns and other information to a larger public. This group will also be working to educate women inside about campaigns to expand their rights.

If you are interested in getting involved please contact:
Harriette – harriette@prisonerswithchildren.org; 415-625-7051 or
Endria – endria@prisonerswithchildren.org; 415-255-7036

Texas Women—and their babies—deserve decent care

A woman cries out for help, but the correctional officers ignore her and she is forced to go through labor and give birth with no help. The infant dies. Other women have described similar scenarios to Texas Jail Project co-founders Diane Wilson and Diana Claitor, and we have posted a video of a woman describing how she gave birth alone in a cell–with a happier ending, since her baby lived. Click through to see that video and read more about Nicole Guerrero’s lawsuit against the Wichita Falls Jail.
(Here is TJP’s link to the video of Lisa talking about giving birth in the Abilene jail in an earlier incident; she was interviewed by chaplain Lance Voorhees.)

By DIANA CLAITOR AND BURKE BUTLER the Dallas Morning News, 26 June 2014

A federal lawsuit in Wichita Falls shines a spotlight on a dramatic example of how the opportunity for lifesaving medical intervention is often missed in county jails. In this case, a child was tragically lost.

This is the story that Nicole Guerrero tells in the lawsuit, filed in May in the Northern District of Texas, alleging that Wichita County violated her rights under the U.S. Constitution:

On June 2, 2012, the Wichita Falls Police Department arrested Nicole, who was five months pregnant, for violating her probation. Nine days later, she started experiencing back pain and cramps, and she noticed that blood and other fluids were coming out of her vagina. In response to Nicole’s cries for help, officers escorted her to the nurse’s station around 6:30 p.m. The nurse listened to the baby’s heartbeat, said it sounded fine and sent Nicole back to her cell.

By 11 p.m., Guerrero knew something was terribly wrong. As she started experiencing contractions, she frantically pushed the medical emergency button in her cell, over and over again. The nurses didn’t check on her for hours, until 3:30 a.m.

Yet again, they ignored her distress and took her to the “cage” — what her attorney described as a solitary confinement cell — unfolding a mat over the floor for her to lie on. Jailers typically call these medical separation cells. Nicole gave birth there, alone, to a baby who was dark purple, its umbilical cord wrapped around its neck.

Guerrero’s story may sound unbelievable, but unfortunately, those of us who are advocates for people held in local jails can believe it.

At the Texas Jail Project, we have had former inmates and loved ones report poor nutrition, improper housing, neglect and lack of medical care, including a woman describing what it was like to labor and deliver alone in the Taylor County Jail. Luckily, her son survived.

On texasjailproject.org, co-founder Diane Wilson retells a story shared by a traumatized young woman whose baby died in an ambulance after being delivered at the Victoria County Jail with no assistance. Because of those and other reports emailed and called in since 2007, the Texas Jail Project was instrumental in the passage of two bills requiring medical care and banning shackling of inmates in labor.

However, the new laws and the standards subsequently passed by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards did not prevent inhumane treatment of Guerrero, nor did it prevent her child from dying. Policies, practices and attitudes in county jails need to change to stop mistreatment of women and prevent deaths of infants born there. In fact, the first responsibility of jails’ medical units is to see that the births occur in the hospital, not the jail.

The Wichita County jail and all county jails can ensure proper care of pregnant inmates by following a simple rule: If the woman appears to be in labor and reports that she is, she should be transported to the emergency department of the local hospital. Period. Second, the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, which provides the training and accreditation of Texas jailers, should add information on supervising pregnant inmates to the Basic Jailer Training curriculum.

Finally, we ask those two agencies as well as the Sheriffs’ Association of Texas to encourage officers and medical providers to re-evaluate their attitudes toward pregnant women in their custody. It may be possible for them to coordinate with officers of the court who can suggest programs and alternatives to jail, especially during pretrial incarceration.

We should never allow another opportunity for intervention to pass us by as happened in Wichita County, when the lack of responsible medical action was the difference between life and death for Nicole Guerrero’s child.

Diana Claitor is executive director of the Texas Jail Project and may be contacted at info@texasjailproject.org. Burke Butler is an attorney at the Texas Civil Rights Project and may be contacted at burke@texascivilrightsproject.org.

Independent Mail, WICHITA COUNTY, Texas —

A woman held on drug charges in the Wichita County Jail in 2012 filed a suit against Wichita County and other entities for allowing her to deliver her baby in solitary confinement without help, resulting in the infant’s death.

The plaintiff, Nicole Guerrero, is suing Wichita County, Sheriff David Duke, Correctional Healthcare Management, Inc. and Ladonna Anderson for breaching the duty of care owed to her, and for medical malpractice.
Anderson is a registered nurse who was employed by the Wichita County Jail through CHM. According to the lawsuit, Guerrero was arrested and booked into the Wichita County Jail on June 2, 2012, for a drug possession charge. She was pregnant at the time.
She went to a doctor’s appointment on June 11, 2012, heard the baby’s heartbeat and was told she was 34 weeks pregnant and had no complications. She was prescribed one medication and one supplement by the doctor.
The suit claims about 6:30 p.m. the same day, Guerrero started experiencing labor-like symptoms, but Anderson listened to the baby’s heartbeat and sent Guerrero back to her cell, the lawsuit states.
Approximately 11 p.m. Guerrero started feeling intensified labor-like symptoms, the suit claims.
“Recognizing that something was wrong, Plaintiff pushed the medical emergency button, seeking assistance for her worsening condition. Plaintiff continued to push the medical emergency button, but her requests for help were ignored until 3:30 a.m.,” the lawsuit alleges.
According to the lawsuit, around 3:30 a.m. detention officers took Guerrero to the nurse station, but she was not examined, and Anderson told Guerrero the complications were probably from the prescription medication she was given by the doctor.
“Subsequently, detention officers escorted Plaintiff to the ‘cage’ and she was given a mat to lay on. Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff’s pain worsened, and she began to experience intense pressure … in obvious distress, began to moan, scream and cry,” the suit claims. “She also attempted to talk herself through this ordeal, since she was not receiving any medical assistance.”
The lawsuit claims Anderson told Guerrero she contacted her doctor, and told her the doctor said she was fine. Anderson ignored Guerrero’s screams for help at 5 a.m. when the nurse was walking by the solitary cell, the suit claims.
The lawsuit alleges Guerrero felt herself and could feel the baby’s head starting to emerge and a detention officer walking by her cell helped her deliver her daughter, who was “dark purple, and had the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck.”
According to the suit, several minutes later, Anderson entered the “cage” and held the baby, patting its back until emergency medical staff arrived 20 minutes later.
“Just to let you know, I had to unwrap the cord from the baby’s neck, and as long as we don’t cut the cord, she’s gonna have some bit of oxygen to help her,” the lawsuit quotes Anderson as saying. “Defendant Anderson then proceeded to wrap the baby in Plaintiff’s inmate towel, but did not make any attempt to revive her by CPR or any other method, although the baby was unresponsive and had a dark purple complexion.”
Emergency medical technicians arrived and took both Guerrero and the baby to the hospital. The infant was pronounced dead on June 12, 2012 at 6:30 a.m. at United Regional Healthcare Systems, the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit claims Guerrero’s 14th Amendment rights of access to reasonable medical care were violated by the listed defendants and alleges Anderson ignored her “obvious signs of labor and constant requests for medical assistance … unattended in a solitary cell while she was obviously in labor.”
The lawsuit claims Guerrero had to deliver her baby alone and the incident resulted in severe and likely permanent physical and psychological damages. Guerrero is seeking the maximum amount authorized by law for compensatory and punitive damages and requested a jury trial for the civil suit.
Guerrero is currently serving three sentences in state jail for two drug possession charges and a theft charge. Her projected release date is at the end of July, but a date has not been scheduled, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Anderson’s registered nursing license expired Jan. 31, 2012, and its status is listed as delinquent, according to Publicdata.com. Anderson earned her license in 1997, and she has not received any disciplinary action, according to publicdata.com and the Texas Board of Nursing.
© 2014 Anderson Independent Mail. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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1 Comment
Alana C.
8 years ago

This is very sad and so preventable. How are so-called health officials in our county jails treating human beings like this? I say this is murder. This is not an isolated incident, doctors and nurses in a lot of our county jails in Texas feel obligated to withhold medical treatment or maybe they’re forced to? I don’t know but it’s deplorable and you would think that health officials that have committed to help human beings would not be so cruel. ….(edited by TJP) Really! How do they even live with themselves?
My son experienced the cruelty and lack of medical care at Harris County Jail 2013. It is just a miracle that my son lived through it. He went from a severe head injury and was totally neglected inside the jail medical treatment was repeatedly withheld from him. He fell unconscious one time, he had to have two other surgeries ….No he was not faking. No this lady was not faking labor. ….(edited) Do your job which is to care for people—you are medical staff! And the guards are just as barbaric, probably worse …