NIANTIC, CT — A female inmate gave birth in her cell early Tuesday morning at the York Correctional Institution, raising questions about the care of pregnant prisoners.
Upon the discovery of the birth, the woman and her newborn were treated on site before being moved to an area hospital, according to the Department of Correction.
Both the mother and the baby are reported to be in good health.
The DOC has launched an internal investigation as a result of the birth and two health care employees were asked not to report to work until the investigation is completed.
“Although the details of this incident are still unfolding, I cannot overstate how seriously this agency takes the health and wellbeing of the offender population,” Correction Commissioner Scott Semple said. “The goal of health services within a correctional environment should always strive to meet the community standard of care.”
The department said it is standard policy that women be transported to an outside hospital when they are in labor.
The incident emphasizes the need to codify a pregnant incarcerated woman’s right to medical care, according to a joint statement from four Connecticut organizations that promote woman welfare: The ACLU of Connecticut, Connecticut Bail Fund, Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, and SWAN (Sex Workers and Allies Network).
“It’s unconscionable that Connecticut’s prison employees left a woman to give birth in a prison cell without medical care or help. No pregnant person should have to endure that kind of inhumane and potentially dangerous treatment,” the coalition said. “This story reinforces existing concerns about Connecticut’s treatment of pregnant people who are incarcerated.”
Apparently the treatment of pregnant prisoners already was an issue the administration is pursing.
Earlier this month, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy introduced a bill, SB 13, which would require York Correctional Institution to provide prenatal and postnatal care including periodic health monitoring and access to a minimum of one hour of ambulatory movement every day. The legislation also would prohibit the use of restraints on a prisoner unless the prisoner is deemed a threat or flight risk.
This is not the first incident in which a pregnant prisoner was treated poorly during labor.
Jaclyn Lucibello, who served time at York between 2010 and 2014, said that Correction Department staff were slow to respond when she began having contractions. However, unlike the inmate who gave birth Tuesday, Lucibello was transported to the hospital. But, according to an article in the The Day of New London, she was shackled and then handcuffed to the hospital bed the entire time. Lucibello made those remarks last month at a Quinnipiac University forum related to The Prison Project.
In 2015, the department adopted a directive that says before they put a pregnant or post-partum inmate in leg irons or other restraints, they have to consult with the Health Services Unit for approval.
“If the Health Services Unit determines that placement in leg irons or other restraints are not medically advisable, no such restraints shall be used. For an inmate in the third trimester of pregnancy, no leg irons shall be used unless the Shift Commander determines that security reasons dictate otherwise and the Health Services Unit does not find this medically contraindicated. Restraints shall not be used on an inmate in labor or during delivery.”
Asked why the administration introduced the legislation regarding how pregnant female prisoners are treated, a spokeswoman simply said it codifies current practice. The legislation was sent to the Judiciary Committee for consideration.