A federal lawsuit was filed on Tuesday claiming that at least forty female Milwaukee County jail inmates were forced to remain shackled while giving birth.
A federal lawsuit was filed on Tuesday claiming that at least forty female Milwaukee County jail inmates were forced to remain shackled while giving birth since 2011. A policy at the jail insists on keeping inmates in shackles while being hospitalized regarding of their criminal or medical history. The lawsuit, which was filed on March 14th, alleges that 27-year-old Melissa Hall was forced into remaining in handcuffs during each time she was hospitalized for prenatal care, while in labor and during her post-partum treatment.
When Hall was hospitalized to give birth, she had to wear a “belly chain” around her waist and leg irons whenever she went to the bathroom. The woman was incarcerated from February to August 2013 for unreleased charges. Because of the conditions during her labor, the hospital staff had trouble administering an epidural and she was exposed to what the lawsuit states as “physical pain and suffering” and “unreasonable risks for harm.”
Armed deputies forced Hall to remain in chains during labor — even after medical providers insisted she be freed, the complaint says. And, the filing, which references that The U.S. Marshals Service, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement have all adopted policies restricting the use of shackles on pregnant women, insists that the confinement inflicted more pain on Hall as she gave birth, left marks on her body and made it harder for hospital workers to work with her. Hall’s attorneys are pushing for a trial by jury, seeking compensatory damages and attorney fees.
The Milwaukee County jail has been known for its less than desirable housing conditions. Four people have passed away at the jail within a six month period, including a newborn girl whose mother is suing the system. Shadé Swayzer was taken into custody at eight and a half months pregnant after an altercation with authorities. Despite the pregnancy and a diagnosis of severe mental illness, she was placed in the maximum security. She alleges she was given prenatal vitamins on only one occasion, and for days received no medical attention. She went into labor inside her cell in the maximum security unit. The child passed away shortly after birth.
The three sons of another inmate, Terrill Thomas, who died while incarcerated from dehydration have also filed suit. The men claim their father was “subjected to a form of torture” when, at some point, a corrections officer turned off the water in Thomas’ cell. Fellow inmates “overheard his cries for water for days”, yet his pleas were ignored.
His family indicated Thomas was having a mental breakdown when police arrested him April 14 for shooting a man in front of his parents’ house and later firing a gun inside a casino. Police took the man to a hospital to be examined because of he was being disruptive at the city jail and showing “signs of acute psychological disorders,” the lawsuit states. The hospital cleared him for transport to the county jail where he would remain until his demise. The medical examiner who conducted Thomas’ autopsy said he had suffered from “profound dehydration.”