Grandmother Seeks Justice For Child Born In Prison Toilet Bowl
Two years ago, 20-year-old Tianna Laboy gave birth in York Correctional Institution in Connecticut, the only women's prison in the state. She entered prison at 19, pregnant, diagnosed with bipolar disorder and charged with stabbing her partner (non-fatally).
Giving birth in prison is already horrible in the "best" of circumstances. In 23 states, it is still legal for pregnant prisoners to be shackled to their beds while they give birth. Because they are imprisoned, parents are rarely given any time at all to spend with their children before they are hauled back to their cell.
But in Tianna Laboy's case, she didn't even have a bed to be shackled to.
At 33 weeks pregnant, she cried of labor pains and called out for help. She pressed the call button in her cell. No one came. She ended up giving birth on the toilet in her cell, her newborn baby hitting her head as she fell in.
That baby, named Naavah, is now two years old and being raised by Karine Laboy, Tianna's mother. She has significant speech and developmental delays, which could very well be a result of the circumstances of her birth. Karine and Tianna are now filing a lawsuit against "Department of Corrections Commissioner Scott Semple, along with an obstetrician-gynecologist, two registered nurses and two prison guards."
The Connecticut Department of Correction's (DOC) internal investigation spans hundreds of pages. The DOC said it moved swiftly to fire a nurse found at fault, but the family filed a federal civil rights suit against other employees.
They claim a prison employee falsified log books and nurses didn't have proper labor training. [...]
Tianna and Karine are seeking money damages. But more than that, they want Connecticut to take responsibility.
"I don't understand how the State of Connecticut can continue to defend the indefensible in the 21st Century," said [family attorney Ken] Krayeske.
If this is true and the nurses did not have proper labor training, what the hell were they even doing working at a women's prison in the first place? I realize America dearly loves its entirely ineffectual "It's PRISON, not a resort! It's supposed to be miserable!" approach to criminal justice, but leaving a woman to give birth on a toilet certainly seems within the realm of cruel and unusual punishment. While 33 weeks is early to give birth, it's not unheard of, and the fact that there wasn't even someone close enough to hear the cries of a woman in labor is unconscionable.
That's not just one nurse being bad at their job. Something like that happening? It's gotta be systemic.
Hell, even if there weren't a pregnant woman in the area — there are all kinds of medical emergencies people could have and require immediate assistance for. You can't just leave people alone like that, I don't care what they did.
Connecticut Attorney General William Tong's Office said they are required by law to defend the prison's actions and that they are not allowed to give the Laboys any money until damages are proven, stating "we have engaged, and will continue to engage, in good faith settlement negotiations with plaintiff's counsel." Karine Laboy says they are dragging their feet.
Karine Laboy, local activists and the ACLU of Connecticut are also advocating for Tianna's release from prison, as she is still serving a seven-year sentence for first degree assault. That would be good. That, damages and the kind of prison reform that will ensure that nothing like that ever happens to another person ever again.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse