Woman left to give birth alone on the floor of a Maryland prison cell and ignored by nurses for six hours, lawsuit says

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A woman who said she was left to deliver her baby alone on the dirty concrete floor of her Maryland prison cell filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday, alleging that prison nurses ignored her screams and pleas for help for six hours.

Jazmin Valentine claims that some nurses working for the prison’s contracted medical provider, Pennsylvania-based PrimeCare Medical, Inc., said she was off drugs, not in labor, and that some prison employees and medical staff laughed at her for just trying walk out of her cell late at night in July 2021 at the Washington County Jail in Hagerstown.

During her most painful contractions, Valentine claims she broke through the walls of her solitary confinement cell, which had no blankets or sheets, and removed what she believed to be her baby’s amniotic sac and slipped it under the cell door to prove she was about to have a baby.

Hearing Valentine’s pleas, a fellow inmate called Valentine’s boyfriend, who called the jail and pleaded with staff to help her, the lawsuit said.

The nurses also ignored concerns raised by a jail deputy about Valentino, but he did not contact any supervisors, the lawsuit said. About 15 minutes after she was born just after midnight on July 4, 2021, Valentine was discovered holding the baby girl in her cell, and an ambulance was called to take them to the hospital, according to the lawsuit.

Because of the unsanitary conditions in the cell, the child developed a type of staph infection that is resistant to many antibiotics, the lawsuit said.

Valentine, who had never given birth before, said she was afraid her baby would die and she might bleed out during the birth. But when she realized that no one would help her, she said she was determined to try to give birth alone.

“Anything can happen in my brain,” she said of her fears. “I felt like I was in the hands of the devil, honestly.

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Washington County Jail in Hagerstown, Maryland.

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The suit alleges that Washington County, Maryland, its sheriff’s department and the sheriff, as well as nurses and jail deputies, violated Valentine’s rights under state law and the Constitution.

County spokeswoman Danielle Weaver said the county had no comment. PrimeCare did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Valentine was more than eight months pregnant when she was arrested on an alleged probation violation and taken to jail the day before she went into labor, the lawsuit said. Valentine was released a few days later and her child is doing well, she said Tuesday.

The lawsuit is similar to the lawsuit filed in 2019 by a a woman who gave birth alone in a denver prison the year before, claiming that nurses and deputies ignored her pleas for help for five hours. Surveillance video released at the time by the law firm representing Diana Sanchez, which also represents Valentine, shows her lying on a narrow bed, screaming in pain, and giving birth to a baby boy. The city eventually settled the dispute.

After Sanchez’s birth, the Denver County Sheriff’s Department, which runs the jail, said it changed its policy to ensure that pregnant inmates who are in any stage of labor are taken to the hospital immediately. Previously, the decision about whether to move a pregnant inmate was left up to prison nurses, but deputies were authorized to call an ambulance for someone in labor.

David Lane, whose law firm appears in both cases, said he believes they point to problems with both the privatization of health care behind bars and the attitudes of correctional administrators.

“As long as jail and prison administrators view inmates as animals, things like this will continue to happen,” he said.

Orange County in Southern California last month agreed to pay $480,000 to the inmate who was pregnant but miscarried after sheriff’s deputies stopped at Starbucks while taking her to the hospital.

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