A woman was forced to give birth alone in a cell: Kelsey Love

It seems archaic that in this century, policies allowing pregnant women to deliver their children on concrete floors, completely alone, and without the supervision of medical staff still exist in the world, let alone in the United States

How many women in how many jails, in this country in this century, are delivering their children, completely alone, and not only without but deprived of the supervision of medical staff? Too many, and too many go uncounted, unreported. As we noted two years ago, when discussing the stories of Diana Sanchez, Tianna Laboy, Kenzi Dunn, all forced to give birth alone in their respective jail cells, “These are only the names we know. There is no national data base concerning prison or jail births … because, really, who cares?” Add Kelsey Love to the list of women who have been forced to undergo these `archaic’ conditions, this torture.

Kelsey Love is now 32 years old. On May 14, 2017, on Mother’s Day, Kelsey Love was eight months pregnant. She was driving her grandmother’s car when she was stopped by police officers in Frankfort, Kentucky. Initially, she was stopped because police thought she was driving erratically. Her grandmother had reported the car stolen. Love told police officers that, not too long before her being stopped, she had used methamphetamine and opioids. She also informed the officers she was eight months pregnant. Then she was booked into the Franklin County Regional Jail, where she was supposed to be monitored every ten minutes. That did not happen.

According to Kelsey Love’s report, on May 16, Kelsey Love began feeling intense pain. She screamed for help. Staff thought she was detoxing, and so left her alone, screaming, in pain. Finally, a female staff member came in. By that time, Love was on the floor, crying, and screaming for help. She asked to see a doctor. She said something was wrong, that the baby was coming out. The staff member asked if she was having contractions, and Kelsey Love said she was. The staff member called the jail call nurse, who said she would check in later and the staff should keep close watch. That did not happen.

Three hours later, the nurse arrived. When she and a staff member walked into the cell, the floor was covered in blood. Kelsey Love had given birth to a baby boy, chewed off the umbilical cord, ripped the mattress and crawled into the bed with her newborn child. That is what happened.

Kelsey Love sued the jail and some members of the staff. This week, she was awarded $200,000 in an out of court settlement. Kelsey Love has successfully completed drug rehabilitation treatment, has been clean and sober for two years, and is now working to regain custody of her children. The boy born on the floor of that jail cell will turn four in three months.

According to Kelsey Love’s attorney, “She’s doing great.” According to the same attorney, she “still has night terrors as a result of her ordeal.” What happened to Kelsey Love? She was abandoned, as so many women have been, left to give birth alone on the concrete floor of a jail cell in Kentucky, just like Tianna Laboy in Connecticut, Kenzi Dunn and before her Tamm Jackson in Florida, Diana Sanchez in Colorado, Jessica Preston in Michigan. Nicole Guerrero and  Autumn Miller in Texas. These are only the names we know. There is no national data base concerning prison or jail births … because, really, who cares? It’s not archaic. It’s torture, cruel and unfortunately altogether usual punishment.

by Dan Moshenberg

(Infographic: Prison Policy Initiative)

A woman was forced to give birth alone in a cell: Diana Sanchez, Tianna Laboy, Kenzi Dunn

In one week in December, two stories of women being forced to give birth alone in prison or jail cells collided. In Connecticut, a court decided that the case of Tianna Laboy, who, while held at the York Correctional Institution, was forced to give birth to her baby in the toilet of her prison cell. That occurred February 13, 2018. In the same week the Connecticut court made the decision concerning Tianna Laboy’s case, another court, in Florida, heard the case of Kenzi Dunn, who was forced to give birth alone in a cell in the Osceola County Jail.  Tianna Laboy’s baby survived. Kenzi Dunn miscarried. This is how the year ends; this is how the decade ends. Across the United States, pregnant women in prison and jails routinely suffer programmatic neglect and abuse. Diana Sanchez was forced to give birth, alone, in the Denver County Jail, July 2018. The list goes on: Tammy Jackson, Broward County, Florida; Jessica Preston, Macomb County, Michigan. Nicole Guerrero, Wichita County, TexasAutumn Miller, Dawson State Jail, Dallas, Texas. These are only the names we know. There is no national data base concerning prison or jail births … because, really, who cares?

When Diana Sanchez was booked, she was eight months pregnant, in early stages of labor, and had a history that suggested high-risk pregnancy and a good chance of early delivery. Diana Sanchez went into hours long labor, screamed for help, and no one cameStaff stood outside her cell, nurses watched on video and refused to help. Diana Sanchez reflected, “That pain was indescribable, and what hurts me more though is the fact that nobody cared.” What hurts me more is the fact that nobody cared.

Tianna Laboy’s experience echoes that of Diana Sanchez. She informed authorities she was pregnant. Staff did nothing or less than nothing. Tianna Laboy walked the halls in pain, begged for help, cried out in pain. No one came. Sitting on a toilet in her cell, she gave birth to a child. The child hit her head on the toilet. Tianna Laboy pulled the infant out. Her cellmate told her to pat the child on the back. She did and her daughter started breathing. Other than her cellmate, Tianna Laboy received less than no care. That was last year. It’s not clear if anything has been done at the prison to correct this situation … because, really, who cares?

Kenzi Dunn’s story is basically the same. When she was booked into the Osceola County Jail in October, Kenzi Dunn discovered she was pregnant. On Wednesday, December 4, Kenzi Dunn started bleeding, asked for help, begged for help, screamed for help, and none came. Kenzi Dunn continued to bleed. She didn’t see a doctor until Friday. On Saturday, bleeding and suffering cramps, Kenzi Dunn miscarried. On Monday, she was taken to the hospital. Upon release from the hospital, Kenzi Dunn was taken back to the same cell and had a day added to her sentence, to make up for the day she spent in the hospital. The following week, Kenzi Dunn was released two weeks “early”. Kenzi Dunn summed her experiences succinctly, “It was torture”.

Across the United States, in the name of justice and security, women are being forced to give birth alone in prison and jail cells. Women are being forced to bear their children into toilets or onto floors. Women are being forced to bleed for days on end, while assistance stands inches away and refuses to budge. Nobody cares. It’s torture. 

(Infographic Credit: Prison Policy)