DOC: Baby born in prison cell, health workers knew inmate was pregnant
An inmate gave birth in her cell, and as a result two employees have been told not to return to the prison while the incident is being investigated
By Christine Dempsey
The Hartford Courant
HARTFORD, Conn. — An inmate gave birth early Tuesday in her jail cell, and as a result two employees have been told not to return to the prison while the incident is being investigated, correction officials said Thursday.
The baby was born at the York Correctional Institution in the Niantic section of East Lyme, the only prison in the state for women. It is standard policy that pregnant inmates be taken to an outside hospital when in labor, Department of Correction spokesman Andrius Banevicius said.
“As soon as the birth was discovered, the new mother and her baby were treated on site, and immediately transported to an area hospital for further evaluation,” spokesmen for the state Department of Correction said in a news release.
The mother and newborn are reported to be in good health, they said.
As a result of the birth, prison officials have launched an internal investigation, and two UConn Health employees have been told not to return to York, the spokesmen said.
“The circumstances that led up to a baby being born inside a cell are still under investigation. However, preliminary findings have led to two UConn Health, Correctional Managed Health Care employees being told not to report to the facility for work until the investigation is completed,” they said.
UConn Health said it has started its own investigation.
Staff at the facility were aware of the offender’s pregnancy when she arrived at the prison, and she was receiving pre-natal care, Banevicius said. All inmates are evaluated medically when they come to the prison, he said.
He would not say whether anyone was aware that the woman was in labor early Tuesday, and, if so, why she was not taken to a hospital.
The Department of Correction commissioner said his agency takes offenders’ health care seriously.
“Although the details of this incident are still unfolding, I cannot overstate how seriously this agency takes the health and well-being of the offender population,” Commissioner Scott Semple said. “The goal of health services within a correctional environment should always strive to meet the community standard of care.”
Leaving a pregnant woman in a jail cell to give birth without medical help is “unconscionable,” according to a joint statement from four different Connecticut organizations that help women: the ACLU of Connecticut, Connecticut Bail Fund, Planned Parenthood of Southern New England and SWAN (Sex Workers and Allies Network).
“No pregnant person should have to endure that kind of inhumane and potentially dangerous treatment,” the groups’ statement said. “This story reinforces existing concerns about Connecticut’s treatment of pregnant people who are incarcerated. Today’s news shows the need for a comprehensive statewide law to protect pregnant incarcerated people’s health, human rights, and safety, and to ensure Connecticut prisons and jails uphold their Constitutional obligation to provide incarcerated people with the medical care they need.”
Prison officials, too, have been concerned about medical treatment in state prisons — including inmate deaths where errors in medical protocol were noted. Earlier this month, they said they will move responsibility for inmate health from UConn Health to the Department of Correction.
In May, state auditors faulted the DOC's $100 million-a-year, no-bid agreement with UConn Health and its correctional health care unit. Quality controls are substandard and UConn Health is policing itself, the auditors said. Lawmakers have long criticized the 17-year-old arrangement as being long on cost, short on accountability and unlike any other agency-vendor relationship in the state. State officials also hired an expert to review 25 problem cases.
Inmate health care services will move from UConn Health’s Correctional Managed Health Care unit in July, the DOC announced Feb. 1. UConn Health said at the time that the “transition of provision of inmate medical services back to the DOC from UConn Health is something we support and will work collaboratively to accomplish without negative impact to the patients or the employees who provide their care.”
UConn Health said it is on pace to lose $1 million providing the services to the Department of Correction for this fiscal year. For next year, funding is scheduled to be reduced by $8 million.
Suggestions “that this change is driven by quality of care concerns are not accurate,” UConn Health said of the transfer of medical care to the DOC. “We are proud of the work of our people who deliver this care, often under very challenging circumstances.”
In a statement issued Thursday, UConn Health said it “shares the position of the Department of Correction; patient safety in all settings is our top priority. Our thoughts today are with the mother and her child, we are glad they are doing well. We support inquiry into understanding the birth at the York Correctional Facility and have begun conducting our own review.
“We are proud of our people across the state delivering in facility care often under challenging circumstance through our Correctional Managed Health Care organization.”
©2018 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)