Emergency Hearing to Address Fate of Pregnant Prisoners in California

"Time is truly of the essence here," said a lawyer for women imprisoned at Santa Rita Jail.


Album / Oronoz/Newscom

An emergency hearing in federal court today will address allegations that some California jailers have been negligent in caring for pregnant prisoners and generally abusive toward female inmates at the Santa Rita Jail.

Six women, all currently or formerly incarcerated at the jail, filed a lawsuit in January against the Alameda County Sheriff's Office. In the suit, they allege all sorts of abuses, including pressuring pregnant prisoners to have abortions, denying them adequate food, and providing wretched medical care.

The case draws attention to a problem that extends far beyond California yet has only recently started to get mainstream attention. But has the attention in this particular case come too late?

Alameda County has denied responsibility for any medical negligence, citing its use of a private contractor to provide health care to prisoners, and it has denied responsibility for the inadequate diets, on the grounds that food is handled by another private contractor, Aramark. Both the county and the medical contractor, the California Medical Forensic Group (CMFG), have moved to delay the case, saying they need time for more investigation. CMGF has requested an extension until at least late March.

Meanwhile, pregnant prisoners are still being housed in a place where guards allegedly deny them adequate food and hygiene products, subject them to conditions that cause miscarriages, force them to wear dirty underwear, serve them filthy food, let infectious diseases go untreated, and left one woman to give birth alone in solitary confinement.

In an email to CMFG's attorney, the prisoners' lawyer, Yolanda Huang, wrote that she "appreciate[d] that in a routine litigation, [the request for more time] would be reasonable and deserving of courtesy. However, in the present case there is a pressing situation due to the fragile and quickly changing needs of unborn children."

One of the pregnant plaintiffs, Dominique Jackson, is pregnant with twins and also suffers from asthma and a heart condition. "She has difficulty breathing and neither her heart condition nor her asthma is being treated by defendants," said Huang in a February 17 declaration to the court.

Her treating medical provider at Highland Hospital stated that the nutrition Ms. Jackson is currently receiving is inadequate for someone carrying twins and recommended home release. Ms. Jackson's diet and medical care have not been improved or changed in any way since the filing of this lawsuit.

CFMG has three weeks to respond, "a week longer than normal under the local rules," yet "they present no reason besides a vague reference to 'investigation' for needing extra time," noted Huang. "Time is truly of the essence here."

NEXT: 'Crisis Actors,' Conspiracy Theories, and the Fear of Social Media

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Well, if you can sue in federal court for people to be better at their jobs, we’re all in trouble.

    1. This isn’t about people being better at their jobs. It’s about forcing the government to stop it’s employees from actively and intentionally abusing vulnerable people.

  2. As a conservative I am against helping people who haven’t committed crimes obtain medical care so why should I give a damn about the medical wants of prisoners? All taxation is theft.

      1. Don’t believe the sockpuppet. Conservatives don’t believe that taxation is theft, just taxation that goes to benefit poor people. Military and law enforcement spending is fine, as are corporate welfare and old people welfare like Social Security and Medicare.

        1. What if the old people are poor? Are those the ones we push off a cliff in their wheelchairs?

          1. Wheelchairs? No, they can pull themselves around on one of those skateboard-looking things.

            1. But that doesn’t allow me to demonstrate my hatred of poor people 🙁

              1. Just set your dogs on them when they come begging at the gate to your manse.

    1. You’re okay with that stolen tax money being used to imprison people, though?

  3. If there’s one important thing I learned from playing D&D it’s that all women in prisons are hot and have huge breasts and barely any clothes. This whole pregnant women in prison thing can’t really be happening.

    1. How do you think they got pregnant in the first place?

    2. Pregnant women are hot AND often have huge breasts. Check and mate.

      1. It’s true. When my wife was pregnant, she constantly complained about being overheated.

  4. So if you’re not in prison it’s perfectly fine to have abortion constantly be suggested by the state below a certain age because it’s informing her of her choice, but if you are in prison it’s pressuring her to have an abortion.

    I am curious of one thing though. In prison it’s assumed that you’ve given up not only your personal autonomy for the remainder of your sentence, but that certain rights are no longer available to you. We’ve also established that fetus are not people and have no rights whatsoever before a certain point unless the mother wants the baby.

    Can we explain why it is that female inmates who are pregnant can’t be forced to have an abortion considering that the mother has given up many of her rights due to crimes committed? Given the Progressive definition and narratives surrounding abortion, it appears to me that it would be logical and allowable to have the state force these women to have abortions.

    Note that this is not my own point of view, nor do I consider it especially moral, but logically and rationally, assuming the Progressive arguments are correct, it would appear to be a perfectly allowable thing.

    Oh, sorry. I forgot. We’re no longer using logic. I’m just supposedly to blindly feel my way to a solution.

    1. You can’t see a difference between mandating and prohibiting something? You can’t see the pro-choice side really is pro-choice and not pro-abortion?

      1. Sure, but the lawyer said “…in the present case there is a pressing situation due to the fragile and quickly changing needs of unborn children.”

        The final two words are usually not associated with the prochoice movement.

        Understandably, the lawyer doesn’t seem to want to be bound by rigid prochoice logic. Apparently this isn’t in the client’s interests.

        1. Also, people who want slavery to be legal are generally referred to as pro-slavery.

          1. Eddie in the thread, y’all.

          2. I have heard few people arguing for the legality of voluntary slavery, other than a few anarchists who seem to like being contrary, since it’s unenforceable.

            With slavery, it was either enslave all blacks or none. Voluntary would have been as laughable then as now.

            You’ll have to come up with a better excuse for your deliberate obtuseness.

        2. You’re either stupid or deliberately naive. The whole point of being pro-choice is to have a choice, and if the mom wants the baby, then there’s nothing at all wrong with calling it an unborn child.

          I used to have some respect for your integrity, but you just washed all that down the drain.

      2. Also, American prisons tend to avoid forcing prisoners to undergo unwanted and controversial surgical procedures, which is a good thing.

        1. Is abortion surgical? The state of California doesn’t seem to think so.

      3. You can’t read? Sorry, I didn’t realize that. I’ll quote myself in the hopes that repetition teaches you some amount of comprehension.

        Note that this is not my own point of view, nor do I consider it especially moral, but logically and rationally, assuming the Progressive arguments are correct, it would appear to be a perfectly allowable thing.

        My point is that the state itself is illogical and morally inconsistent on the subject of abortion.

  5. left one woman to give birth alone in solitary confinement.

    It’s not really solitary confinement if you have a newborn baby with you.

  6. Are these women getting pregnant in prison? If they are, then how about we address this problem. Otherwise, it sounds like typical prison conditions. Prison isn’t a vacation, it is a punishment and I’m not opposed to it being pretty unpleasant.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.