Baby born in New York county jail

Jail's medical staff tended to the mom and infant, who was born weeks before his due date


By Matthew Spina
The Buffalo News, N.Y.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — A baby boy was born in a Niagara County Jail cell Saturday evening as an ambulance rushed to the scene, the jail's top administrator said Monday.

"Within 30 to 40 minutes from the incarcerated individual saying they were having some pains, there was a baby born," Chief Daniel N. Greenwald said. "So it happened extremely quickly."

He said the mother and the infant are now doing fine in a local hospital, which he refused to specify.

With the jail's medical staff tending to her, the mother gave birth weeks before the due date, Greenwald said.

The mother is still considered in custody and, without a court order, will eventually be returned to her cell, Greenwald said. He said the woman has arranged for someone to care for the baby until she is freed.

Records show the mother is in her early 30s, was booked into the jail in the middle of May and is awaiting court action. Her Facebook page shows her as a devoted mother to her other children. A family member asked that her name not be used to spare her from the public eye.

It's not uncommon for jails and prisons to hold expectant mothers. A study by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found that 4% of women who entered a prison in the United States from 2016-17 were pregnant. Other studies, stressing the need for better care for pregnant inmates, found that they have higher rates of miscarriage, preterm infants and infants who are small for their gestational age, as compared to women in the general population.

It is less common for births to occur in jails, which lack the resources hospitals have to respond to complications during delivery. In examining reproductive health care in New York's jails, the New York Civil Liberties Union reminded jail administrators that state law requires them to timely transport expectant mothers to appropriate facilities for labor and delivery.

Niagara County contracts with PrimeCare Medical Inc. for the jail's medical care. Though the company has had peaks and valleys in its care of the county's inmates, it helped the Niagara County facility earn accreditation from the National Commission on Correctional Health Care.

"She was being seen regularly by our OB-GYN, so she was being cared for," Greenwald said of the woman who gave birth Saturday. "But as I said, the baby came quick. We had the right people on," he said of the medical staff and jail employees who assisted with the delivery.

"It certainly wasn't normal," Greenwald said. "Not that we haven't had mothers have a baby while they've been here in custody. But they generally have them in the hospital. This one didn't work out that way."

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