287(g) Means Stealing Babies from Mothers

I just read this post from Ginger and I gasped out loud. She links to a post over at Tim Chavez’s about Juana Villegas DeLaPaz, who was coming from a prenatal clinic when she was pulled over by a Berry Hill police officer. It’s not clear from Chavez’s account why she was pulled over to begin with, but she didn’t have a driver’s license and so her brother-in-law was called to come and get them.

Then, the Berry Hill police officer decided to arrest her. While she was in the custody of our Davidson County Sheriff, Daron Hall, she was taken to the hospital, where she gave birth.

Her husband was then called to COME AND GET THE BABY AND SHE WAS TAKEN BACK TO JAIL.

I will pause a moment for Rachel from Women’s Health News to pick herself up off the floor. I don’t think the importance of a baby who can nurse nursing from it’s mother in those first few weeks can be overstated. You just do not separate a mother from her new infant.

But that’s what it’s come to in Nashville. We’re ripping babies out of the arms of mothers and for what?

To be cruel for the sake of cruelty.

Edited to Add: Hi, Shakers. Welcome. I was thinking that you might want to know that while almost all of Davidson County is the same as “Metro Nashville” that there are still little pockets of quasi-independent towns within our midst–like Al Gore lives in Belle Meade, which is right down the road a piece from me (and is the location of my favorite park in town), but he also clearly lives in Nashville. Same with Berry Hill. Berry Hill is surrounded on all sides by Nashville and they use many Nashville public services, but they have their own police force and city hall. But they also are under the jurisdiction of the Davidson County Sheriff’s department, which houses all of the prisoners of Davidson County, regardless of which police department made the arrest.

It is the Sheriff’s department which participates in 287(g), not the local police forces.

Also, see these posts here and here for links to more posts on this story. Oh, and read Tim Chavez.

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26 thoughts on “287(g) Means Stealing Babies from Mothers

  1. It is nothing more than seeking political power on the backs of those unable to fight back.

    But, don’t you just feel so much safer? She might have breast fed in public!

  2. Oh Wahh!

    The article doesn’t say when she was picked up, but it does say that she was released at the 3 AM ‘today’.

    She and her four anchor babies will survive just fine. And once again, government turns a blind eye.

  3. Yes, Exador, everyone gets that you should be able to break the laws you want, but no one else should ever be able to break the laws they want.

  4. She and her four anchor babies will survive just fine.

    and so long as we don’t kill them all, anything else we might do to them is clearly irrelevant.

    And once again, government turns a blind eye.

    really? so it was some private party that briefly imprisoned her and separated her from her newborn for no good reason, all the whiles the government totally ignored the goings-on? shocking, i say.

  5. really? women giving birth in jail are routinely separated from their newborns? that would be a major problem, then.

  6. Nomen, sad but true. Usually it’s 24 hours, though — not immediately, as in this instance. Incarcerated women are also routinely shackled while in labor, being unshackled only to push. Considering that 6% of women are pregnant when they get to jail and another 5% will become pregnant due to non-consensual sex during their jail terms (before anyone jumps, the definition of non-consensual sex includes sex between people where one is in supervisory capacity over the other, such as the power disparity between a jailed woman and her guard where it would be difficult to say no), it is a major problem and one of the perennial reasons that Amnesty lists the US as a human rights offender.

  7. It costs money to pay personnel to secure the room. Shackles cost less than $50 and you can reuse them for years.

  8. what GingerSnaps just said. as well as, though i’ve never seen a birth and never particularly want to, just how many women are physically capable of running from the cops either during labor or immediately after it? everything i’ve heard about the process would seem to preclude much escaping.

  9. Securing the room instead of using shackles would also involve acknowledging that someone is not “just” a criminal and treating them with some human dignity.

  10. Supporters of the practice have never been able to come up with a single instance of a woman actually trying to escape while giving birth. But, you know how it is, wimmenz is teh evil wily things so ya can’t be too careful.

  11. Too much traffic through Labor and Delivery to handle it with just a deadbolt. It would be hugely cumbersome for the attending staff, even provided that they wanted to put up with it (some of the med staff are actively hostile to inmates — jail transports have to be handled with the high-risk protocols and it’s an extra pain in the ass.)

    That’s also assuming that a hospital had sufficient numbers of private laboring rooms available and that the hospital is willing to equip them for secure delivery of incarcerated women. Since they make a handsome pile of coin on customizing the birthing experience for those who can afford it, I am guessing that they want to have paying customers in those scarce rooms and that the happy family who came to local hospital because of all those gauze-filtered commercials are not going to be thrilled to have an inmate laying-in across the hall. Heck, I am an upright and upstanding citizen and I came within thirty minutes of having to deliver in a hospital hallway because it was a busy night and they didn’t have sufficient beds in the L and D.

    But yeah, it’s more that they want to degrade these women. Because, you know, treat them like animals…

  12. I’m sorry, I just cannot accept that there isn’t a better way than restraints. I refuse.

    Since there is a need for L&D units for inmates, there is no reason there cannot be a secured ward wherein they can give birth and attending staff can come & go as needed. For cripes’ sake, at Baptist, we had buzzers in and out of our nurseries, I know it’s possible to buzz staff in and out of busy units.

    We can either look for every obstacle in our way or find every possible solution…this is a class, racial, and sexist issue that isn’t going away anytime soon and I’m fired up as hell right now.

  13. me, i’m wondering how those women got to the maternity ward in the first place. somebody probably drove them there, and i’m thinking that somebody was likely a corrections officer.

    after the delivery, some corrections officer will likely have to drive those women back to the jail again. idunno, maybe it would be entirely undoable to just have that officer stand guard over these horribly dangerous prisoners in the meantime, too, but somehow i’m just not convinced of that.

    sure, it would mean more personnel expenses for the duration of labor and delivery. births tend to incur such expenses, oddly enough. i vote we suck it up and pay for ’em.

  14. Ginger, I don’t think anyone here is suggesting that the restraints are appropriate, just explaining the “reasons” that are used to justify the practice. We don’t have a law against in Tennessee at the moment, by the way. I wonder if we could find a sympathetic legislator to take it on?

  15. Yes, these practices suck and must change. Women are the fastest-growing single “identity group” going to jail in the last ten years — the number has nearly doubled in the last five years. The majority of those new female inmates are women of color. If you’re interested in reading first-person narratives about the incarceration experiences of women or learning more about activism ongoing in this area, a good place to start is the website Women and Prison (www.womenandprison.org).

  16. While there are certainly those who have whatever baggage is necessary to actively want to degrade prisoners, including women, I think the more likely culprit is that they just don’t give a fuck about the prisoners.
    That means that they don’t balance the necessity of the shackles against the humiliation of the prisoner. The humiliation of the prisoner doesn’t get factored in. If they heard that somewhere a prisoner tried to escape? Well, why take a chance?

    Add in that prisoners, including women, are very creative fakers, and jailers, who have been lied to every day for the past ten years, are very jaded.

  17. Ex, the biggest problem with all of this is that the “necessity” of the shackles has never been demonstrated. As I mentioned above, there hasn’t been a single reported instance of a woman escaping from lawful detention during or after giving birth.

  18. I think the more likely culprit is that they just don’t give a fuck about the prisoners.

    that would be a problem in and of itself, then. such a person is not fit to be in control of prisoners, any more than someone who actively wishes to harm prisoners would be.

    part of incarceration — the “responsibility” part that comes inevitably with the “power” part — is that when we take freedom away from a prisoner, we assume responsibility for their well-being, since we’re explicitly and specifically preventing that prisoner from seeing to their own well-being, which would necessitate giving them their freedom. people who don’t care about this responsibility should not wield that power, end of story.

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