Woman in labor screaming for help in Santa Rita Jail ignored, baby born on cold concrete floor


by the Law Office of Yolanda Huang

Giving birth in prison is not rare. “At any given time, between 6 and 10 percent of the approximate 113,000 women serving time in the United States are pregnant. Between 1977 and 2007, the number of women behind bars increased by 832 percent. That rise in incarcerated women equates to several thousand babies born in prison each year,” according to Emily Kaiser in a 2015 story on Crimefeed.com.

Oakland – The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) and a for-profit health care provider it contracted to provide medical services to inmates at the Santa Rita county jail are being sued for failure to provide medical care to a pregnant inmate, locking her in an isolation cell even as she was in “the throes of childbirth” and ignoring her screams for help, according to a new federal civil rights lawsuit filed here Aug. 20.

In a complaint for “deprivation of federal civil rights, medical malpractice, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence,” the named defendants are the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Gregory Ahern, numerous jail supervisors and officers, and the California Forensic Medical Group (CFMG).

The conduct was “barbaric … that has never been condoned by any civilized society,” much less the United States and the people of the state of California, “motivated by greed and was inflicted on Plaintiff … for the sole purpose of pursuing profit at the expense and by the suffering of wards of the state such as Plaintiff,” according to the lawsuit filed by Bay Area civil rights lawyer Yolanda Huang on behalf of Candace Steele, a former Santa Rita Jail prisoner.

Ms. Steele had “given birth alone and in pain, without medical care or any other assistance from CFMG, in a cold, concrete, dirty isolation cell at Santa Rita Jail.”

CFMG contracts with ACSO to provide pre-natal, gynecological, obstetrical and maternal services at Santa Rita Jail, and the lawsuit contends there is a reason for CFMG to not send Ms. Steele to a hospital: If an inmate delivers her baby in a hospital, CFMG must bear the cost; if the inmate is forced to deliver the baby at the jail, there is no cost to CFMG.

Therefore, according to the filing in U.S. District Court for the Northern District, San Francisco-Oakland Division, ACSO’s contract with the CFMG “creates a financial incentive and imperative for CFMG to refuse and withhold inpatient hospitalization services to all inmates, including inmates in active labor.”

In fact, the lawsuit claims that by specifying that “CFMG alone determines ‘the necessity and appropriateness of inpatient hospital care,’ ACSO’s contract with CFMG enables the private firm to refuse and withhold inpatient hospital care to inmates in labor,” as CFMG did in the Candace Steele case.

Although admitted to the hospital days earlier, Ms. Steele, on July 23, 2017, complained of cramping and pain, and could not walk and was only able crawl on her hands and knees. Other women in the jail reported to jail staff that Ms. Steele was in clear medical distress.

A CFMG nurse examined Ms. Steele, announced that Plaintiff was not dilated, was only eight months pregnant, only had a stomachache, and was exaggerating her distress. The deputies then placed Ms. Steele in an isolation cell – not cleaned – with a metal and concrete bed, metal door and toilet – as punishment.

The lawsuit claims that by specifying that “CFMG alone determines ‘the necessity and appropriateness of inpatient hospital care,’ ACSO’s contract with CFMG enables the private firm to refuse and withhold inpatient hospital care to inmates in labor,” as CFMG did in the Candace Steele case.

Ms. Steele began screaming in pain, but, as is the lawsuit charges, the deputies closed the window to muffle the sound of her screaming. No one, according to the lawsuit, did anything to help Ms. Steele for many hours.

Eventually, the screaming stopped, and other inmates could hear the sound of a crying baby – Ms. Steele had “given birth alone and in pain, without medical care or any other assistance from CFMG, in a cold, concrete, dirty isolation cell at Santa Rita Jail.”

Of note, the baby was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around its neck. “Out of pure instinct (the mother) put her fingers into the baby’s mouth to open its airways so that the baby could start breathing. After the baby’s birth, Plaintiff had no means to wash or clean the baby or herself. Plaintiff had no blankets, towels or other materials to swaddle or wrap the baby in,” read the federal filing.

The Santa Rita jail differs from San Francisco and Contra Costa counties, where the respective counties do not use a private medical provider and instead use county departments of health, which have no such financial incentive to deny care.

Lawsuit available upon request.

Contact Attorney Yolanda Huang at 510-329-2140 or yhuang.law@gmail.com.


  1. Plaintiff was sent to the Labor & Delivery Department at Valley Care in the evening

    of July 20, 2017. Plaintiff informed doctors and/or other medical staff at the Labor & Delivery

    Department that she had smoked methamphetamines in approximately the fifth month of

    pregnancy, that she smoked tobacco daily, that she had smoked marijuana within the last day, and that she drank alcohol during her pregnancy, including during the seventh or eight month or pregnancy.

    Source: Case 4:18-cv-05072

    Now she cares?

  2. Wow, your a cold piece of work. To read this article and then essentially say well why should we care because she drank and used drugs is cold and uncaring. If you actually think about what you read no where in the article does it really say anything about her all of a sudden caring about the infant. If you actually read the article it focuses on the care, or well lack of care the inmate received while being in labor and how that is unacceptable. What your doing is trying to cloud the issue of what the lawsuit is actually about. If you had read this you would know that the infant is not the focus of the article or the lawsuit, but that the mistreatment and casual disregard of a human being on distress is the focus. Just because someone made a mistake, just because someone is an inmate DOES NOT mean that they don’t deserve to be treated as a human being and have basic healthcare withheld from them. PEOPLE MAKE MISTAKES its amazing that you would judge someone based on the fact that they made a mistake. That fact that she was no longer using methamphetamine since she was in her fifth months shows that she did care and was making an effort. Otherwise she would have still been using methamphetamine. But that’s besides point, whatever mistakes she made does not make it ok for her to be treated the way she was. Those who live in glass houses shall not throw stones. I hope your never judged for your mistakes because I’m sure you’ve made plenty and the only difference between you and her is that you weren’t judged for yours.

  3. Desire thank you. Sick people in this world such as L.M. Birde are the reason this filthy place is being sued now. They all belong six feet under! He/she is more concerned about the mother suing the jail for their pure negligence in a life or death situation than they are about justice and making sure inhumane situations like this never happen again! I am disgusted!

  4. Santa Rita Jail is a horrible facility that does NOT care about their inmates and treats them horrible. I do understand that some inmates are in there for murder and rape and may deserve this type of treatment but others are not and do not deserve this. Weather or not the mother did drug or drank alcohol has no factor into what the jail did wrong here. They now she was in labor and instead of helping her they ignored her. Many things can go wrong when in labor and after having a baby. The mother was only 8 months into her pregnancy, that means the baby was a month premature and could of had complications upon being born, the baby could of been stuck in a position that would of called for an emergency c-section, both mother and baby could have died on that floor, the baby hand the umbilical cord around his/her neck and when pushing that cord could of tighted around his/her neck cutting of his/her airway and therefore end with a stillbirth, after have the baby was born the mother could of blade out… What I want to know is how fast did they get care afterwards? How long did she sit there with her newborn baby and no blankets or proper way to care for herself or the baby after she had him/her? Also, what would Santa Rita Jail and/or Alameda county be doing right now if one or both of them had died in that ceil? The mother may of been in jail for what ever reason but that baby was not, and he/she deserved to be born in a safe environment.

  5. L.M. Birde is ok with babys being born in dangerous environments—for example, jail, if the mother isn’t a model citizen. L.M. Birde would make a terrible parent. Props to this woman for giving birth, without help, without painkillers, without safety! Holding a pregnant person in a cell is torture. It really just seems like L.M. Birde and these cops want her and the child to die.

  6. hat kinda messed up shit is that lock mom not even check on her no medical n top off not clean the cell n didnt think baby born n die in facilaty on there watch what if a c section was needed breech footling oh i forgot they never been in that position i bet if it was someone they new how fast they advacate k tristesa

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