ACLU of Missouri Announces Settlement with Jackson County, MO
Kansas City, MO — Jackson County has taken an important step in the right direction to stop the unconstitutional practice of shackling pregnant women while they are in labor. Nearly eight months after Megon Riedel filed her lawsuit against Jackson County and three correctional officers, the case has settled. Ms. Riedel had been shackled, chained and transported by van nearly 200 miles across state while she was in labor. Ms. Riedel sued Jackson County and three Jackson County Detention Center (JCDC) employees. She was represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri.
Under the terms of the settlement, Jackson County will pay damages to Riedel and implement written policies and procedures addressing the use of restraints and transportation guidelines for pregnant inmates and pre-trial detainees.
“Shackling and chaining a pregnant prisoner while she is in labor violates the Constitution. Not only is it cruel and unusual punishment, it jeopardizes the health of both mother and baby,” explains Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri. “The terms of the settlement represent a commitment from Jackson County to ensure that what happened to Ms. Riedel does not happen again.”
While in labor, Ms. Riedel pleaded with the guards to take her to a hospital rather than drive her to the Women’s Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correction Center (WERDCC) in Vandalia, Missouri. Just hours earlier, physicians at the Truman Medical Center (TMC) in Kansas City had informed correctional officers that Ms. Riedel had a high-risk pregnancy and they needed to have a delivery plan in place because Ms. Riedel was already having contractions. Instead of developing a safe delivery plan, however, they placed Ms. Riedel in shackles and transported her across the state to WERDCC. Vomiting, bleeding and in severe pain, Ms. Riedel was shackled and chained for the entire trip to WERDCC ― even during her only restroom break ― and was provided no medical attention on the journey, despite her repeated pleas for medical attention.
Upon arrival at WERDCC, Ms. Riedel was evaluated by a doctor and rushed by ambulance to Audrain Medical Center in Mexico, Missouri, where she delivered her son. Fortunately, the child was not harmed.
“We are pleased to see the officials and systems that committed this injustice take responsibility. Unfortunately, this indifference to a person in medical distress is not unique to Megon and we will continue to hold those who run our jails and prisons accountable,” said Jeffrey A. Mittman, executive director of the ACLU of Missouri. “We hope to see other county jails across the state follow Jackson County’s lead in taking steps to make sure that pregnant women are treated humanely.”
The ACLU of Missouri continues to represent Tara Rhodes in her lawsuit against Mississippi County jail officials who denied her medical attention for days and transported her to WERDCC while in preterm labor. Her child did not survive. Details of Ms. Rhodes’s case can be found at:
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