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More Disturbing Details on the Jailing of Pregnant Juana Villegas DeLaPaz

July 13, 2008

Tim Chavez shares further information based on an interview with DeLaPaz’s family by her attorney – so, yes, this is all third and fourth-hand, but it hasn’t been covered by our local media as far as I’ve seen.

Many have asked why she was pulled over, and according to Tim, the ticket was issued for “careless driving.” She also did not have a driver’s license, and had been initially told to call someone else to drive her and her children home.

“Sgt. Coleman…made pregnant Juana wait in a hot car for an hour. When the other driver arrived, Coleman then told Juana that she didn’t get out of the car into his police vehicle in two seconds he would put her in handcuffs. She told Coleman that she was supposed to deliver in three days, but it made no difference.”

Tim reports that during her ICE interview, it was determined that she had previously undergone deportation a decade prior, so she was kept in jail on the driving without a license charge and an ICE detainment. Then this happened:

On 7/5/08, her “water broke” at approximately 10 p.m and she was taken by ambulance to General Hospital about an hour later. She gave birth on 7/6/08 at 1:03 a.m. She received excellent and compassionate care at Nashville General.

During her stay there, the guard (I believe it to have been sheriff’s personnel — wore a “green uniform”) disconnected the phone so that she could make no outgoing calls. She did not see her husband the entire time she was there. She was ankle-cuffed to the bed at all times (except when she was released to take a bathroom break).

After giving birth, DeLaPaz had her ankles recuffed and had this to contend with:

When the nurse requested the cuffs be removed to enable a better job of self-administering personal hygeine, the guard refused. The nurse became upset, but the guard callously said, “I’m just doing my job”. She was discharged on 7/8 at 4 p.m. The nurse gave her a breast pump, but the sheriff’s guard refused to let her use it or take it with her from the hospital.

Two days after giving birth, she was returned to jail.

Chavez has further discussion of how the 287g program, which was “was sold to Davidson County residents two years ago as a way to remove dangerous criminals from the undocumented population of immigrants and their families here,” has contributed to this incident and others, as well as physician commentary on the incident.

See Tim’s initial post for background, and my previous post for links to additional blog discussion. Thanks to B for pointing out Tim’s updates.

Updates: In addition to National Advocates for Pregnant Women, I should refer you to the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice for discussion of related issues.

Latina Lista also has commentary.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. July 13, 2008 10:07 am

    I have no doubt that this woman was treated this way. I have seen this first hand as a midwifery student, and as a nurse. Pregnant woman are shackled at the ankles, even while laboring. They are handcuffed to the bed, or, when a pelvic exam is needed, her legs are shackled to the stirrups.

    I understand that these guards need to take precautions, but seriously- how fast can a pregnant woman run from the cops?

  2. Officer's opinion permalink
    July 13, 2008 10:52 pm

    I an a detention officer for an undisclosed Sheriff’s department. I am also a woman and a mother. I haven’t read anything “disturbing” in the accounts of this case. The women was in this country illegally and therefore considered a criminal. While true that a pregnant woman or one who had just given birth wouldn’t likely be able to run from an officer, nevertheless, there are protocols that law enforcement must follow. Anytime an inmate, any inmate, is taken to the hospital, they should be wearing restraints at all times. That is just standard procedure. Hospital staff and patients should not have to worry about unrestrained inmates in their facility. As for the baby being taken from it’s mother, again standard procedure. Do you propose that all women who give birth in custody be allowed to keep their babies in jail with them? That’s a lot of babies, and believe me, jails are not equiped to house babies, nor is it fair to the infant. The other issues, such as not allowing visitors or phone calls, not allowing the inmate to take the breast pump, etc. are perfectly reasonable and I would have done the same. Did this woman pose any real threat to officers or hospital staff? Probably not. Would you be as sympathetic if the female inmate in question was in custody for murder? In the eyes of the law, an inmate is an inmate regardless of their charges and we are trained to perceive them all as threats. It sounds like the officers involved followed procedure, so what is the problem? You give up certain rights when you break the law.

  3. July 14, 2008 7:58 am

    Being “protocol” does not make it right, humane, ethical, appropriate medical care, or just. Many things have been “just the way it is” in the past – that didn’t make them right. The officer had discretion as to whether to jail her in the first place. The nurses caring for her were reportedly crying because of her treatment – doesn’t sound to me like they were too scared. Labor is not “standard procedure” – some compassion and decency should come into play. And yes, there are innovative programs that attempt to provide inmates with more/better contact with their children and parenting/life skills. This woman could have been allowed contact with her baby for the two days she was in the hospital, but some folks lacked the decency to treat her like a human being.

  4. July 14, 2008 8:45 am

    Also, who says all inmates are the same in the eyes of the law? Do you house people accused of writing bad checks in with murderes? No.

    All the time police make judgments about who to arrest and who not to. And all the time, when a person is taken into custody, the jailers make decisions about how best to house them to keep them safe and in good health.

  5. July 14, 2008 10:28 am

    I’m very upset about the treatment of the mother, but I also feel really awful about the treatment of the child. That baby has gotten such a developmental disadvantage from day one, deprived of feeding and bonding with its mother.

    And, as I often do, I wonder where the pro-lifers are standing on the rights of the already-born. How many of them are countering “you give up certain rights when you break the law” with “but the baby didn’t break any laws!”

  6. July 16, 2008 11:20 am

    And, as I often do, I wonder where the pro-lifers are standing on the rights of the already-born. How many of them are countering “you give up certain rights when you break the law” with “but the baby didn’t break any laws!”

    Nicely said.

  7. July 16, 2008 11:56 am

    Tanglethis, I keep seeing people say, “she made a choice when she came here,” as though one law violation automatically strips a person of dignity and any other consequences logically follow. That officer made a choice when he decided not to show any compassion, as did the guard in the hospital. We also made a choice that treating people this way was acceptable to our community, even though it shouldn’t be.

  8. July 16, 2008 11:00 pm

    I’m completely with you on that from go, Rachel. I’m not really interesting in treating humans inhumanely under any circumstance. Particularly not for anything so universal and mundane like seeking a better quality of life, although I may be making assumptions there.
    But I’m waiting for the rest of the chorus to chime in – the “what about the children” section, any time now… hm…

  9. Joy H permalink
    July 20, 2008 11:32 am

    Officer’s Opinion,

    The law is the very minimum ethic. That the law says you can treat a person in this manner does NOT make it right.(Remember Kitty Genovese in NYC and all the neighbors who listened to her screams as she was murdered and closed the windows instead of dialing 911–no law existed with which to charge those people) I am truly saddened that you don’t find this barbaric treatment shocking and appalling. I think the reason many people don’t have a good opinion about law enforcement these days is that they think officers see issues only in black and white, good guys vs bad guys, whereas most people tend to issues in shades of gray.

    Maybe you have to do that to carry out the more onerous duties your job entails.

  10. Patti in Dallas permalink
    August 4, 2008 3:18 am

    What I’d like to know is who paid for the delivery? I bet the Davidson County Jail did.

    Yet, Medicaid which is half federal/half state money normally pays for undocumented alien births, for their hospital days only.

    So did the county screw itself?

  11. Janis Keller permalink
    August 23, 2011 3:06 pm

    Juana Villegas irks me no end. She’s been in this country for 14 years, no driver’s license, no citizenship papers, and on the youtube video stated that she was “afraid” of the officer. Right. A person who is deported from a country, comes right back, drives with no license, is not a citizen even after deportation, isn’t afraid of anything. Rather stupid, but not fearful. I highly doubt Officer Coleman frightened her. By her own admission on the video, she refused to go with him or her ride. I can imagine he was aggravated, especially after waiting an hour with her for her ride to arrive. She is, a self-serving, selfish person. If I were her 14 yr old son, I would be ashamed of her. She has flouted Federal law twice, and I, personally don’t believe anything that comes out of her mouth. She has broken too many laws and then weaseled out. I’m willing to prophecy that she’ll get the extra 3 year visa, and that she will not get her driver’s license or citizenship papers with the extra time. She snubs her nose at authority.


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