Jail sued over preg­nant women

Some were placed in soli­tary con­fine­ment.

The Times-Tribune - - Local / State - BY JOE MAN­DAK

PITTS­BURGH — The Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union has sued the state’s sec­ond-largest county for putting preg­nant in­mates in soli­tary con­fine­ment in its jail.

The fed­eral law­suit was filed Mon­day on be­half of five preg­nant women. Four of the women are or re­cently were in the Pitts­burgh jail, and the fifth is at risk of be­ing jailed if she vi­o­lates terms of her house ar­rest.

On­line court records show at least three of the preg­nant women have re­cent dru­gre­lated of­fenses or pro­ba­tion vi­o­la­tions for drug-re­lated crimes, though it couldn’t im­me­di­ately be de­ter­mined whether any of the drug of­fenses or pro­ba­tion vi­o­la­tions oc­curred once the women were preg­nant.

“It is widely rec­og­nized that plac­ing preg­nant women in soli­tary con­fine­ment is ex­tremely dan­ger­ous — for both mother and child,” said at­tor­ney David Fawcett, who is do­nat­ing his time to as­sist the ACLU in the law­suit. “The rou­tine and thought­less use of this prac­tice is a real black mark on our county and must end now.”

The U.S. De­part­ment of Jus­tice has ad­vised against plac­ing preg­nant women in soli­tary con­fine­ment ex­cept in rare cir­cum­stances. The law­suit con­tends preg­nant women in the Al­legheny County jail are some­times sent to soli­tary for mi­nor rule vi­o­la­tions with­out proper dis­ci­plinary hear­ings: One preg­nant plain­tiff was pun­ished for hav­ing three pairs of shoes in­stead of just the two al­lowed by the jail.

Al­legheny County of­fi­cials de­clined to com­ment on the law­suit.

The plain­tiffs spent be­tween six and 22 days in soli­tary, and one woman show­ered just twice dur­ing a 10-day stint, the law­suit con­tends.

Soli­tary in­mates are con­fined to cells be­tween 22 and 24 hours a day, shower in­fre­quently and are de­nied other priv­i­leges. In one in­stance, two preg­nant women in soli­tary shared a cell, but be­cause preg­nant in­mates can’t sleep on the top bunk for safety rea­sons one slept on the bot­tom bunk while the other slept on the floor, the law­suit con­tends.

When one plain­tiff filed a griev­ance in June claim­ing “se­ri­ous psy­cho­log­i­cal stress, pain and anx­i­ety” the griev­ance was dis­missed weeks later with this writ­ten re­sponse: “If this is a prob­lem don’t come to jail.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.