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State settles suit by inmate who gave birth in Niantic prison cell

HARTFORD (AP) — A Connecticut prison inmate who gave birth on a toilet in her cell and claimed she was denied medical care has agreed to settle her lawsuit against state prison officials, her lawyers said Tuesday.

Lawyers for Tianna Laboy told The Associated Press that the settlement with the state attorney general's office was reached Monday evening and involves only money. It does not include any reforms she requested in the suit, including required medical training that would improve conditions at the state women's prison in Niantic.

“Tianna Laboy and her family do not see this settlement as something to celebrate or rejoice, since this is not restorative justice,” attorneys DeVaughn Ward and Kenneth Krayeske said in a statement. “Sadly, the state of Connecticut just pays money, and conditions in York Correctional Institute have not improved for Ms. Laboy nor any of the other women incarcerated there.”

They said that the settlement was the best option for the family at this time, and that Laboy likely would file more litigation over the conditions of her incarceration.

The amount of the settlement was not immediately released Tuesday. Besides damages, the suit sought a court order requiring medical staff to be trained in treating pregnant women, including those with postpartum depression and other mental health problems.

State Attorney General William Tong's office, which represented prison officials in the lawsuit, said in a statement that it could not comment on the settlement because it has not yet been finalized.

“The parties have reached an agreement to resolve this case and are working to memorialize that agreement in a document to be signed by the parties,” the office said. “Until that is done, it would not be appropriate to discuss the terms of the settlement.”

A message seeking comment was left for the Department of Correction.

In September, Laboy's supporters, including clerics, human rights activists and community leaders, demanded at a news conference in New Britain that Tong's office give Laboy justice and provide female prisoners with adequate health care.

Laboy, 23, is serving a seven-year sentence for assault at York Correctional Institution for stabbing a male companion in their New Britain apartment in 2017.

She gave birth just after 6:30 a.m. Feb. 13, 2018, five weeks prematurely, without medical assistance, Laboy said in her lawsuit. In the hours leading up to the birth, she had severe abdominal pain and bloody discharge and asked staff for help, but the staff told her she would have to wait until medical staff arrived at the prison later in the morning, she said.

The baby was born in the toilet, and Laboy pulled her out, according to her lawsuit. At the urging of her cellmate, she “patted her on the back to get all the fluid out" and the baby began to breathe, she said.

The night before, Laboy had seen a prison nurse because of the abdominal pain, but the nurse only gave her a cup of water, told her she was not in labor and sent her back to her cell, Laboy said in the lawsuit. Laboy spent the rest of the night crying in pain as correctional officers told her they couldn't do anything because medical staff “didn't want to see her again,” she said.

In fact, Laboy said in the lawsuit, she had shown signs of being in labor for several days, but medical staff did not perform an internal examination.

The child, now in the custody of Laboy's mother, spent two weeks in intensive care after being born.

Laboy's lawyers said prison officials and medical staff violated her constitutional rights by denying and delaying medical care and acted with a reckless, malicious and wanton disregard for her and the baby's lives.

Following the birth, two UConn Health employees, who provided medical care at the prison, were escorted out and told not to return while the matter was under review.

Two weeks later, the state announced it would move responsibility for the inmate medical care from UConn Health to the Department of Correction, in response to growing concerns over the medical treatment given to inmates statewide, including Laboy.

A Department of Correction investigation identified a series of missteps, including the fact that nurses didn't connect Laboy's abdominal pain to preterm labor.

The lawsuit said the Correction Department is required to have a medical care program for pregnant women under a 1988 consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department that remains in effect, and no disciplinary action appears to have been taken against medical staff.

 

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