A Black woman who claims her wrists and ankles were shackled by police for hours while she was in active labor at a hospital has settled with the city of New York and its police department. The woman was arrested two days after her due date in 2018.
She was arrested on a misdemeanor assault charge that was later dropped and sealed, CNN reports.
According to Her Lawsuit, the Woman Went Into Labor the Same Day She Was Arrested and Remained Shackled for the Duration of Her Time in Custody.
The suit was filed against the city of New York and several New York Police Department officers anonymously in October. It sought damages for emotional distress, a violation of her civil rights, punitive damages, and attorney fees and costs.
In court late last month, a US district magistrate judge for the Eastern District of New York approved a $750,000 settlement for the woman and her baby. However, the settlement stipulates it is not an admission by the defendants that they violated the woman’s rights.
The young mother of two explained to CNN that she ended up being forced to give birth shackled to a hospital bed with only a nurse holding her hand. She told the outlet that she was not taken to the hospital where she’d planned to give birth, but instead, to a hospital in a different part of the city, without the presence of the baby’s father, her family, or the prenatal physician she’d been receiving care from.
The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, recently spoke about her harrowing experience in detail.
“That was not my birth plan. I felt like a failure to my unborn because that wasn’t something that was planned for neither of us,” she told CNN. “I just didn’t feel like myself anymore after that. I feel like my memory got taken away. And still I’m in pain.”
“The first breath that this baby had on this earth was one born out of violence. That was violence, what the NYPD did to her,” Anne Oredeko, the woman’s attorney, said. “This lawsuit was meant as a way to give her some type of solace, but there’s no repairing that — money will never repair that. And she cannot get that moment back.”
“The NYPD arresting officers knew that (she) was extremely pregnant, remarking on it to her as they took her into custody,” the lawsuit said. “There was no urgent need to arrest (her) that day.”
According to the suit, the expecting mother had been experience contractions in a holding cell when she asked another woman being detained with her to time her contractions for her.
“It was a lady next to me in the next cell. She was talking to me the whole time, she was hearing me in pain. She kept timing it for me,” the woman explained. “But everybody was at a Christmas party and nobody was to be found — to the point of where I basically got attention (only) on the next shift. That really made me feel like they didn’t care.”
She told CNN that she was in so much pain at one point that she could not stand upon request which prompted a female officer to do an “inspection” of her “vaginal area.” Still shackled, she was told to lie down on a bench and remove her pants and undergarments for the “inspection.”
“I felt disgusted … because I’m in a dirty jail cell and an officer says I need to lay on something so she could look in my private area to see if my baby is coming,” the woman explained to CNN.
Finally, at midnight on the night of her arrest, she was handcuffed to a gurney and transported to a hospital. A nurse in the delivery room asked for police to remove the restraints but they handcuffed the woman as she continued to deliver.
Kimberly Joyce, senior counsel for the New York City Law Department, shared that the NYPD’s Patrol Guide was revised in early 2020 and that NYPD training was “subsequently enhanced, with input from the parties in this case. The incident that was alleged in this case took place before the revisions to the Patrol Guide and training,” Joyce said in a statement to CNN.
“He finally agreed to remove them after nurses informed him that (she) needed to begin pushing and that the handcuffs were preventing her from receiving an epidural,” the suit said.
After giving birth to her baby boy, she said she was again shackled and struggled to breastfeed her baby while restrained.
While policy changes have been put into place to help make sure this does not happen again, it’s still up to the police’s discretion when and how a woman giving birth is or is not restrained.
“A pregnant prisoner in labor shall not be handcuffed or restrained in any manner, and will only be handcuffed or restrained post-delivery upon the existence of exceptional circumstances,” new guidance states. “Exceptional circumstances regarding the appropriate level of restraint will be determined by the immediate supervisor on a case by case basis.”
Andrew is an Assistant Editor for Mamas Uncut with over ten years of experience as a writer in the creative, marketing, and blogging spaces. After studying Film and Art History, he developed a passion for telling stories in a variety of mediums. Obsessively making lists, reporting celebrity news, and diving into emerging pop cultural topics are a few of his interests.
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