Mother Gives Birth to Baby Alone in Jail Cell

15 05 2009

Got this story on Feministing.  19-year-old Terra Keil of Dubuque, IA gave birth alone and behind bars early Tuesday morning.  As the Telegraph Herald reports:

Blood covered Terra Keil’s hands, and her cries echoed against the jail cell walls.

But the Dubuque County Jail inmate said she took little notice of her own tears; she was focused on the howls coming from the infant squirming in her arms.

Early Tuesday morning, the 19-year-old Dubuque woman gave birth behind bars.

Keil claims guards ignored her pleas for help and left her to deliver her son alone. Jail officials say the mother never showed signs she was in labor.

“I guess it’s a he said-she said situation,” Keil said. “I know it’s their word against mine, but how does somebody have a baby in jail without anybody noticing?”

The young woman screamed for help, but was not helped by prison guards, and was forced to deliver the child alone.

“I was screaming I needed help, and I even pounded on the door a few times, but nobody came,” she said. “Around 7 a.m., a guard came in and asked me if I wanted breakfast. I was crying and holding my stomach and said that I needed a nurse, but he only said, ‘Do you want breakfast or not?’

“And that’s when it hit me — I’m going to have this baby on my own.”

Keil was arrested on Monday evening for violating her parole.  She was due May 23rd, and the report of her arrest indicated that she was pregnant with twelve days until her due date.  According to Keil, contractions began around 5 AM Tuesday morning.  At 7 AM, a guard asked if she wanted breakfast.  She plead for a nurse, but nobody came until ten minutes after the child was delivered (around 7:22 AM).  She was forced to deliver her own baby while sitting on the metal toilet seat in her cell.

The jail administrator is claiming that protocol was followed, and that it was difficult to tell where the screams were coming from and this is why it took so long to reach Keil. ” … Not knowing exactly where the screams were coming from, we first checked West Drunk Holding cell where there was a female inmate being housed who was being observed for Suicide precaution,” the log states.  The jail insists that when guards discovered the woman with her child and a cell covered in blood, appropriate medical attention was immediately called.

This is so obviously inexcusable, and points to larger problems within the prison system.  The woman entered the jail pregnant and emerged with a child, and the jail did little to protect her or her baby or to even treat either as human beings.  It is pretty fishy that the guards insist that someone had checked on Keil every 15 minutes, but somehow failed to notice that she was in need of medical attention.  Keil says that guards only walked by her cell, but never came in or asked how she was doing. If these “checks” even occurred at all, it is clear that they are dangerously insufficient.  It takes a lot more than ineptitude to somehow overlook a pregnant woman in labor.

“This whole thing is ridiculous.  What if they hadn’t come in when they did? I could have bled to death, or he could have stopped breathing. He could have been taken away from me,” said Keil.  

The child, named Colton John, was taken from the mother (who still has three months left to serve) and placed into foster care.  Keil was transported to another facility to finish her three months time.


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