A Connecticut woman who was forced to give birth to her baby girl in the toilet of a prison cell asked for help for days, but her pleas were ignored, according to a federal lawsuit filed against state officials alleging she was denied medical care. Tianna Laboy, now 21, gave birth to her daughter in February 2018. The baby survived the horrific birth and is now being cared for by Laboy’s mother in New Britain.
The federal lawsuit was filed March 3, 2019, by Laboy’s attorneys, DeVaughn Ward and Kenneth Krayeske. The Connecticut Mirror was the first to report about the court filing. Laboy is an inmate at York Correctional Institution in Niantic, Connecticut’s only prison for women. An investigation into the incident by the state Department of Correction has been ongoing since 2018. Several issues with medical care for prisoners in the state have been made public in recent years, leading to calls for changes.
Laboy is several officials with the prison system, including former DOC Commissioner Scott Semple; Dr. Tricia Machinski, the OB/GYN at York; former York warden Antonio Santiago; the medical director at York, identified only as Nelson; two unidentified UConn Medical staff members; and two unidentified York correctional officers. The medical staffers worked for Correctional Managed Healthcare, a subsidiary of UConn Health. It was contracted by the state to administer health care at the state’s prison until July 2018.
Laboy’s mother, Karine Laboy, is also named as a plaintiff in the civil rights lawsuit, representing her granddaughter, Neveah, who turned 1 on February 13. Neveah spent 14 days in the neonatal intensive care unit at a local hospital because she was born five weeks premature, at a low birth weight and because of poor feeding, according to the lawsuit.
Laboy has been an inmate at York since August 2017, after she was arrested on attempted murder charges accusing her of stabbing a man during a domestic incident in New Britain. York holds women who are both sentenced and awaiting trial. She was convicted of first-degree assault in August 2018 and sentenced to seven years in prison. Laboy was about eight weeks pregnant when she was first admitted to York, according to the lawsuit. Her pregnancy was reported to the prison when she was admitted.
Laboy, Who Sought Medical Help for 4 Days, Felt Like She Had to Go to the Bathroom Before Realizing She Was Giving Birth
Laboy’s attorneys wrote in the lawsuit that Laboy sought help from correctional officers and medical staff for days, but was denied proper care. Her attorneys say it is believed that Laboy was in preterm labor for four days, from February 9 until February 13, when she gave birth to the girl in her cell. During that time, Laboy was repeatedly denied medical care and at one point, her attorneys say, medical staff told correctional officers, they “didn’t want to see her again.” She was also denied access to medical staff because she hadn’t filled out the proper form. When she did fill out the form, she was told the OB/GYN was not at the prison and there was no one else to see her.
On February 13, a day after she was denied access to medical help, she was in her cell when she gave birth.
“She felt like she had to go to the bathroom, and she recalled that her mother told her if she feels that, be careful because it could be the baby coming. Upon sitting down, she realized that her baby was crowning,” her lawyers wrote in the lawsuit. Laboy said she then pushed the call bell for help and was yelling that her baby was coming. Before correctional and medical staff could arrive, the baby was born into the toilet.
The baby hit her head on the toilet when she was born and was unresponsive, according to the lawsuit. Laboy, prompted by her cellmate, “patted (the baby) on the back to get all the fluid out,” and her daughter began to breathe. Laboy and her baby were then taken to a local hospital.
You can read the full complaint filed by Ward and Krayeske below:
The State Says It Can’t Comment Because of the Pending Lawsuit
The state Department of Corrections and UConn Health have declined to comment because of the pending litigation. Two UConn Health staffers were put on leave after the incident.
“Although the details of this incident are still unfolding, I cannot overstate how seriously this agency takes the health and (well-being) of the offender population. The goal of health services within a correctional environment should always strive to meet the community standard of care,” Semple said in a statement in February 2018. A press release from the DOC added that the prison was aware that Laboy was pregnant and she was receiving prenatal care. The release also noted that pregnant inmates are supposed to be transported to an outside hospital when in labor and they are not to be shackled.
“As soon as the birth was discovered, the new mother and her baby were treated on site, and immediately transported to an area hospital for further evaluation. The circumstances that led up to a baby being born inside a cell are still under investigation. However, preliminary findings have led to two UConn Health, Correctional Managed Health Care employees being told not to report to the facility for work until the investigation is completed,” the DOC said in the 2018 release.
“UConn Health shares the position of the Department of Correction; patient safety in all settings is our top priority. Our thoughts today are with the mother and her child, we are glad they are doing well. We support inquiry into understanding the birth at the York Correctional Facility and have begun conducting our own review. We are proud of our people across the state delivering in facility care often under challenging circumstance through our Correctional Managed Health Care organization,” a statement said at the time.
Laboy’s Attorney Says He Is ‘Baffled’ by How Prison Workers & Medical Staff Could Watch His Client ‘Writhing in Pain’ & Not Do Anything to Help Her
“It really just leaves me speechless that someone could treat another human being, let alone a 19-year-old woman who is going through her first pregnancy and writhing in pain, like that,” Ward told the CT Mirror. “How anybody could watch that and not try to help, it leaves me baffled.”
On Twitter, the ACLU of Connecticut said about the lawsuit, “It’s unconscionable that prison employees left Tianna Laboy to give birth without medical care or help. No one should have to endure that kind of inhumane treatment. CT must fund & staff healthcare for incarcerated people & create more DOC accountability.”
Laboy’s mother told the Mirror, “I was really devastated that my daughter gave birth in a jail cell. What mother wants to hear that?”