Colorlines reported this week that an inmate from a Texas jail is suing for malpractice and denial of due process. Nicole Guerrero's suit claims that she was determined to be eight and a half months pregnant when she arrived at the jail, but when she began to go into labor, she was not given the medical care and attention she needed.
Wichita County, named in the suit, isn't talking about the case.
More below the jump.When Guerrero started to experience labor-like symptoms, she attempted to get the attention of jail staff for over four hours before someone responded. Then, instead of being transferred to a medical facility, she was put in solitary confinement.
In 2009, the Texas Legislature attempted to address the issue of pregnant inmates by requiring the Texas Commission on Jail Standards to set minimum standards regarding their care and treatment. TCJS did set these standards – and they include documenting the presence of all pregnant inmates and providing for their medical care, including mental health, nutritional needs, and medical services.
Guerrero was failed by the system when, according to court documents,
Wichita County denied (her) access to reasonable medical care … ignored her obvious signs of labor and constant requests for medical assistance, failed to conduct a physical examination … when she began to display obvious signs of labor, left (her) unattended in a solitary cell while she was obviously in labor, failed to transport (her) to the hospital for safe delivery, which ultimately caused (her) to deliver her baby alone in the solitary cell, and resulted in (her) suffering severe and likely permanent, physical and psychological injuries.
Not only was Guerrero transferred to solitary instead of a medical facility, but she was also left alone without the help of medical staff working in the jail. Her attempts to get medical attention and help were ignored by staff and guards alike, until a guard passing her cell stopped to help her deliver her baby.
The child was not breathing when it was born. Its umbilical cord was wrapped around its neck, something that could possibly have been handled correctly if she had access to medical care during her delivery. Instead, there was no attempt to resuscitate the child, who was placed on a “jail rag towel.”
Rates of incarceration for women are on the rise, and Texas has one of the largest populations of incarcerated persons in the country. The state must find a way to create and enforce humane standards for pregnant women who are incarcerated. Stories like Nicole Guerrero's are not only horrifying, they are unacceptable.