PHOENIX (CN) – A Mexican woman claims Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s deputies shackled her while she was in labor, before and after she gave birth by Caesarean section, then denied her a wheelchair but forced her to walk from the hospital shackled hand and foot, and denied her pain medication while she recovered.
It’s the latest in a string of complaints against Maricopa and its self-described “America’s toughest sheriff,” who was scorched last week in a Justice Department report on its investigation of his office.
In her federal complaint, Miriam Mendiola-Martinez says she began to have labor contractions on Dec. 20, 2009 while she was in the Estrella Jail for identity theft. She says Arpaio’s jailers took her to the Maricopa Medical Center, with shackles around her ankles, where she was told she was not in “active labor” and was returned to the jail in shackles.
The next day, Dec. 21, Mendiola says, she “asked an English-speaking person in the visitation room to tell the guards that she needed assistance” because they refused to speak to her in Spanish and she was still in pain.
Mendiola says she was taken again to the Maricopa Medical Care, this time unshackled, where she gave birth to a son through Caesarean section.
She says she was shackled to the bed “before and after the surgery,” guarded by a male sheriff’s deputy or correctional officer, and “was not allowed to nurse or even hold her son after he was delivered.”
Two days later she was discharged from the hospital, and “was forced to walk through the hospital, with her hands and feet shackled,” while only wearing a hospital gown.
While leaving the hospital, she says, “a nurse ran up from the hospital and scolded the Sheriff’s Office deputy or correctional officer … for taking Ms. Mendiola-Martinez so quickly and without Ms. Mendiola-Martinez receiving her pain medication and discharge paperwork,” the complaint states.
It continues: “The John Doe deputy or correctional officer then chained Ms. Mendiola-
Martinez again and forced Ms. Mendiola-Martinez to walk back to the nurse’s station.
“Ms. Mendiola-Martinez was in so much pain she could hardly walk.
“Shackled at her hands and ankles, with a bleeding surgery wound, Ms. Mendiola-Martinez was returned to the Estrella Jail.
“Ms. Mendiola-Martinez spent her nights in the jail following her hospital
discharge in pain and crying.
“When asked about the shackling of MCSO inmates in labor at Maricopa Medical
Center, Michael Murphy, spokesman for the Maricopa Medical Center, stated that the
Maricopa Medical Center doctors and staff ‘defer to law enforcement.’
“International standards stipulate that jails and prisons should use restraints only when they are required as a precaution against escape or to prevent an inmate from injuring him/herself or other people or damaging property.”
Mendiola says that Arpaio’s officers “never made a determination that Ms. Mendiola-Martinez presented a substantial flight risk or a security threat to the safety and security of MCSO staff.”
She says she “could not reasonably be considered a security risk” since she was “held on a charge that involved no violence, no narcotics, and no gang allegations.”
“Established international standards provide that the routine use of restraints on pregnant women is cruel, in humane, and degrading treatment, and given medical and other factors impeding pregnant or birthing women from attempting escape or becoming violent, the presumption must be that no restraints should be applied,” according to the complaint.
Mendiola-Martinez claims that before her delivery jail staff members told her she would receive a “special” pregnancy diet, but when she was taken to court “she was given no food during the day,” and was taunted with other inmates by a deputy or corrections officer who said “there was no food for them”
She seeks compensatory and punitive damages for deliberate indifference and constitutional violations, including cruel and unusual punishment.
She is represented by Joy Bertrand of Scottsdale.