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What To Do If You Are Pregnant and Facing Jail Time

Posted in Criminal Defense on September 24, 2019

The number of women in state prisons has increased dramatically over the last three decades. There are certain challenges that women face when incarcerated related to their health that men do not have. This is especially true when it comes to women who are sent to jail or prison while pregnant.

How to corrections officials handle this? Is there proper prenatal and post-birth care for the mother and child?

Women have rights when they go to jail while they are pregnant. They have resources. However, that does not mean they are treated fairly or receive these resources.

Giving birth in jail

This issue has been in the news lately because of a situation that happened in Colorado. In July, a woman gave birth to a baby in her jail cell in Denver. The woman, who was serving time for a non-violent offense, told officers that she was in labor. She waited for help, but received none, save for a towel to clean up after she told them her water had broken.

When she realized she was not going to receive any help, six hours later, she delivered the baby while laying on the cement bed in the cell.

While this case may seem extreme, the issue of pregnant women in jails and prisons must be taken seriously.

Nine states around the country, including California, have built-in nursery programs for pregnant women. In these programs, women are allowed to parent their children for a specific period of time, anywhere from 30 days to 30 months. Studies have shown that women who are allowed to do this are less likely to be reincarcerated when they are released.

Women who go into labor in jail must be taken to the hospital in an ambulance. Pregnant women are not to be shackled when being transported to the hospital, during labor, during delivery, or during recovery at the hospital. This includes being handcuffed in any manner.

Resources for pregnant inmates

There are several organizations that work to ensure the rights of pregnant women are upheld. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has been outspoken for women who are going through pregnancy in prison and provide resources and information for incarcerated women’s health.

Your right if you are pregnant in jail

If you are pregnant in jail, you have rights. Due to a major lawsuit settled in 2001, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has adopted policies specifically focused on pregnant women prisoners.

When a woman is screened by a nurse upon entering prison, the staff must notify the Supervising Obstetrician. Women are then to be seen by an OB Physician or OB Nurse within seven business days. Pregnant women will be issued a pass for a lower bunk and housing on the first floor of a prison.

Women who are pregnant and on the methadone program will continue to receive treatment. Women in this situation will be recommended for immediate transfer to the California Institution for Women in Corona.

Pregnant inmates must be scheduled for visits with the OB on a strict schedule depending on what trimester you are in and will be scheduled to see a dentist on a priority basis. The prison will provide prenatal vitamins, iron, and folic acid.

Prison staff may only use physical restraint if a pregnant inmate poses a threat to the physical safety of themselves or others. If you believe your rights have been violated while in jail or prison, contact a criminal defense attorney who will fight for your rights. Call The Law Offices Of Graham Donath for a free consultation.