A woman was forced to give birth to her baby girl alone inside a dirty jail cell as nurses and officers ignored her screams for help for six hours, according to a federal lawsuit.
While Jazmin Valentine was having contractions and alerting nearby staff that the baby was coming, they laughed, “telling her she was ‘playing games trying to get out of [her] cell,’” a complaint filed Sept. 27 in the District Court of Maryland states.
Valentine says to prove she was telling the truth, she pulled out what was believed to be her amniotic sac and slid it under the jail cell door — but she was further ignored, according to the lawsuit.
As a result, her daughter was born on the cold, cement floor of a solitary confinement cell without any medical assistance on July 4, 2021 at Washington County Jail in Hagerstown, the complaint states. She says the “filthy” conditions led to her infant developing a MRSA infection, which is caused by staph bacteria.
Now Valentine is suing PrimeCare Medical Inc., the company contracted to provide care to people in jail; its nurses; Washington County; county Sheriff Douglas W. Mullendore; and three other officers, according to the complaint. She is demanding a trial by jury.
County spokeswoman Danielle Weaver declined a request for comment from McClatchy News on Sept. 28. McClatchy News also contacted Mullendore for comment and left a message with PrimeCare Medical seeking comment on Sept. 28 and was awaiting a response.
“What should have been one of the happiest days of her life was instead a day of terror, pain, and humiliation that continues to cause her ongoing emotional trauma,” the complaint states.
In a statement, Valentine’s attorney Andrew D. Freeman told McClatchy News that his client’s labor and delivery “was a nightmare as a result of the callousness indifference of the jail’s nurses and guards.”
Valentine goes into labor at Washington County Jail
On July 2, 2021, Valentine, who was more than eight months pregnant, was booked in Washington County Jail after she was accused of violating her probation for an offense not specified in the complaint.
The next day, she went into labor and was ignored for hours while having excruciating contractions every minute, causing her to punch the cell walls in pain, according to the complaint.
During this time, another inmate phoned a friend who contacted Valentine’s boyfriend, the father of her child, to initiate help, the complaint states. When the boyfriend called the jail to get someone to check on Valentine, nurses never did. Instead, Valentine says one nurse laughed at her boyfriend’s efforts.
As Valentine experienced contractions, one PrimeCare Medical nurse ended up approaching her cell and told her “it’s funny how you timed this act of having contractions for when I came to the door” and said “she was fine,” the complaint states.
Other inmates who heard Valentine’s screams of pain began yelling “she’s in labor” to alert officer’s within the jail, but Valentine was further ignored, according to the lawsuit.
“(Valentine) could not believe this was happening and that human beings could be so callous and cruel as the PrimeCare Medical nurses were,” the complaint states.
Minutes before Valentine gave birth to her daughter, a deputy heard her pleas and witnessed her lying on a mattress within the cell, according to the complaint.
When the deputy told the nurses that Valentine’s baby was coming, one nurse replied that she “was not going to have a baby and that her condition was the result of drug withdrawals,” the complaint states. Then, the nurses proceeded to do paperwork instead of responding.
Valentine says this deputy did not notify a jail supervisor or 911 to get medical help, even though he understood the nurses would not assist her giving birth, according to the lawsuit.
As the baby arrived minutes after midnight on July 4, 2021, Valentine thought “she was going to die” along with her baby, the complaint states.
For the first several minutes of the baby’s life, Valentine says “no nurse dried or warmed” her daughter and no “nurse cleared the mucus from (the baby’s) nose and mouth,” according to the complaint. Additionally, she says the baby did not receive proper medical treatment and was never weighed by any PrimeCare Medical nurses.
Valentine and her daughter did not get to a nearby hospital until 1:13 a.m., more than an hour after the birth, according to the lawsuit.
At the facility, doctors determined the infant “had contracted MRSA from being born in that cell and she only weighed 4 lbs. 8 oz.,” the complaint states.
Another attorney for Valentine, David Lane, who is lead counsel in the case, told McClatchy News that “this case illustrates the sad fact that as long as jail and prison administrators continue to treat human beings as animals, these atrocities will continue to occur.”
“It also highlights the fact that privatizing ‘health care’ in jails is an ongoing mess nationwide,” Lane added.
Valentine is suing the defendants for deliberately indifferent medical care in violation of the Eighth “and/or” 14th Amendment, according to the lawsuit.
The mother seeks to have the court award her relief, including compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorney fees and costs.
“It’s hard to believe that any human being would ignore the screams of a woman in labor and leave her to deliver her own baby alone on a filthy, cold, hard jail cell floor,” Freeman told McClatchy News.
Lane said “it is our hope that accountability will occur and a message will be sent across the country that the serious medical needs of the incarcerated cannot be ignored.”
Hagerstown is about 70 miles northwest of Washington, D.C.