A woman was forced to give birth alone on the floor of a prison cell as she screamed in pain for help, a federal lawsuit alleges.
In July 2021, Jazmin Valentine gave birth in a cell at the Washington County Jail in Hagerstown, Maryland.
“Ms. Valentine experienced one of the most profound and painful moments of anyone’s life alone, on a filthy cell floor with no sanitation, no medical treatment and no help of any kind,” the lawsuit states. “She didn’t have so much as a form of comfort.”
The lawsuit names PrimeCare Health, a contractor the prison uses to provide health care services to inmates. It also names four individual nurses who were employed at the prison during Valentine’s labor and delivery.
Valentine was arrested and booked into the Washington County Jail on July 2, 2021 for a probation violation. She was over 8 months pregnant at the time, which was ‘visually obvious’ to prison security and staff, according to the lawsuit.
She went into labor on July 3rd. She was placed in a cell next to the nurses’ station, but the staff nurses did nothing when she told them she was beginning to feel contractions.
According to the lawsuit, the two PrimeCare nurses stationed at the jail did not perform an initial exam on Valentine. When a sheriff’s deputy heard Valentine’s cries for help, the nurses told her she was suffering from drug withdrawal and wouldn’t have the baby anytime soon.
Instead, a nurse at the station filed paperwork to move Valentine from the medical ward to the general female housing unit.
The lawsuit says the nurses ‘did nothing to respond to or assist Ms. Valentine with baby JRB’s impending birth. Instead, PrimeCare Medical nurses sat in their office and continued to do paperwork.’
Valentine sat alone in his cell and screamed for nearly 6 hours, the lawsuit alleges. Another inmate near her was able to call a friend, who in turn called Valentine’s boyfriend and the father of her child.
The father called the prison and desperately tried to get her medical attention, but was ignored. Valentine claims in the lawsuit that she overheard the nurses laughing at her boyfriend’s call.
In a desperate attempt to get the nurses’ attention, Valentine slipped what she thought was her amniotic sac under the cell door into the hallway. The nurses and prison staff continued to ignore her.
Shortly after midnight on the 4th of July, Valentine gave birth to a baby girl.
The nurses did not notice that Valentine had given birth. A sheriff’s deputy discovered the mother holding her child when he shone a flashlight into the cell 15 minutes after the baby was born.
The lawsuit also alleges that they failed to provide any basic postnatal care to the baby or the mother, including removing mucus from the baby’s nose and mouth, providing a hood to warm its head, administering antiseptic eye drops, giving it vitamin injections or administering its hepatitis vaccine .
An EMT also had to cut the baby’s umbilical cord while en route to the hospital, nearly 40 minutes after birth.
As a result of unhygienic birth, the child contracted MRSA – a dangerous staphylococcal infection.
Washington County declined to comment on the pending lawsuit, and PrimeCare Health has not issued a statement about the incident.
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