When it’s time to have a baby, things either take a really long time – or they take forever. Unfortunately, pregnancy losses can be the same way. Sometimes the pace is glacial and you have days or weeks of uncertainty and stress – or you’ve got 5 minutes to get to the doctor before things go sideways. One California inmate experienced the latter with a pregnancy loss, but received delayed medical treatment after the sheriff’s deputies in charge of her welfare decided she was less important than a cup of coffee.
In 2020 a lawsuit was filed by homeless and mentally ill Sandra Quinones against Southern California’s Orange County Sheriff’s Department, after police officers’ coffee stop delayed treatment and left her bleeding and scared in the back of a patrol car. The lawsuit was dismissed initially but reinstated again in 2021 and now has been decided in favor of Quinones.
Quinones was in jail in 2016 when her water broke. Sheriff’s deputies took approximately two hours to respond to the call button she pressed for urgent aid. When they finally attended Quinones and decided to seek medical attention, they put her in a patrol car to transport her to the hospital. Prematurely broken waters require immediate medical attention, but Quinones would not receive it because the deputies transporting her decided to make a little detour on the way to the hospital – and picked up a Starbucks order.
Quinones was hospitalized, but the fetus did not survive. Now, she’s being given $480K, but it won’t bring back the baby that should have been.
Speaking on the court case, Quinones’ lawyer Dick Herman told the Register, “That’s a very good result for someone badly treated in the jail. This poor woman, she’s in jail having a miscarriage and, instead of calling an ambulance, they take her to the hospital in a patrol car and the cops stop at Starbucks while she’s bleeding.” Herman told the LA Times, “The Orange County Jail is capable of sinking to the lowest depths. Unfortunately, this is not the only occasion.”
In the lawsuit, the officers were blasted for “deliberate indifference.”
Police indifference towards inmates is nothing new, and the way pregnant women are treated in jail is third-world-level bullshit. PrisonPolicy.org writes, “There are an estimated 58,000 admissions of pregnant women into jails and prisons every year, and thousands give birth or have other outcomes while still incarcerated. Pregnancy rates among confined youth were similar to those among adults.” Inmates have shared stories of giving birth with their ankles and wrists shackled in the hospital, and being given no time to bond with their babies. And in 2019, a story went viral after a woman gave birth in her jail cell alone. She screamed for help, but all they provided was a white mat passed under the door. No one attended the birth, and she was given no medical oversight. It’s a sad summary of the way inmates are treated, made particularly poignant when those inmates give birth – or lose a baby.