A 26-year-old Maryland woman gave birth alone on the filthy floor of a jail cell while staff ignored her cries for help.
Jazmin Valentine claimed in a federal lawsuit that nurses at the Washington County lockup in Hagerstown ignored her screams — and some even laughed — while she labored for six hours in July 2021 while in solitary confinement.
David Lane, attorney for Valentine, argued that a caged animal would have been afforded better medical care.
“An animal at the zoo giving birth would have had a veterinary attendant,” Lane said Thursday.
“She actually thought she was going to die. She was greatly fearful her child was going to die,” he added. “They just did not care.”
Nurses working for the facility’s contracted medical provider, Pennsylvania-based PrimeCare Medical Inc., claimed Valentine was not in labor but withdrawing from drugs, according to her lawsuit filed Tuesday.
Jail employees and medical personnel laughed at her, saying she was just trying to get out of her cell late at night, the suit alleges.
Amid painful contractions, Valentine — who was locked up on a probation violation — removed what she believed was the amniotic sac and slid it under her cell door to prove she was about to deliver, according to the suit.
Another inmate who heard Valentine’s screams alerted her boyfriend, who called the jail to plead for help, the suit states.
Valentine said she was determined to try to give birth on her own but was terrified her baby would die without help.
“In my brain, anything could happen. I felt like I was in the hands of the devil, honestly,” she said, adding that the newborn developed a staph infection.
The lawsuit accuses Washington County, the sheriff, the sheriff’s department, jail nurses and staff of violating her rights under state law and federal laws.
Lane, said the ordeal was a blatant violation of her constitutional rights and added they want to send a message to jails and prisons across the country that treatment like this is unacceptable.
“What we’re looking for is accountability. We want to send a message to every jail and prison in America: They will pay a steep, steep price when they treat human beings like animals,” he said.
Valentine was over eight months pregnant when she was arrested for the alleged probation violation, according to the lawsuit. She was released several days after giving birth.