Miami Federal Prison Inmates Give Birth In Shackles, Lawyer Says
On Tuesday, New Times reported the needless death of Keskea Hernandez, an inmate at Miami's Federal Detention Center. Death, it turns out, is not the only disgrace inside the FDC. Back in 2010, Maria Sosa was five months pregnant when she was accused of Medicare fraud and tossed into a cell. Manny Perez, her attorney at the time, says the health of Sosa and her baby were horribly neglected.
"She gave birth with shackles around one wrist and one ankle," Perez says. "She didn't even have a chance to hold the baby in her arms before they snatched it away from her."
Like Hernandez, Sosa was denied bond despite being a first-time offender and U.S. citizen. The pregnant woman was considered a flight risk because she was born in Cuba, Perez says.
Inside the FDC, Sosa was denied even the most basic medial treatment, Perez claims.
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"Folic acid is one of most important minerals for a pregnant woman," he says. "A lack of it can contribute to autism. But it took her over two-and-a-half months before the doctor ... actually gave it to her."
Perez says his client was also denied tests to make sure her child didn't have a genetic disorder such as Down Syndrome. They were considered "elective" tests and denied, he says.
When it came time for Sosa to deliver her child, she was kept shackled to her hospital bed. Perez argues that this practice -- a policy of the Bureau of Prisons -- violates international law.
"What kind of harm can a woman do when she is delivering a child and trying to push the kid out?" he asks. "It makes no sense, particularly when she's serving a relatively short sentence on a white collar offense. She's not a violent killer."
In a motion filed before the delivery, Perez blasted the BOP for how it treats its pregnant inmates (see below for full text).
"The defendant's pre-natal care at the hands of the Bureau of Prisons is slightly better than a pregnancy during Neolithic times at the dawn of the Neanderthals," he wrote. "Undoubtedly, this inhumane treatment is worse than what we do to animals at the human society. However, as a colleague remarked to me 'those animals did not steal a million dollars from the Government.'"
Perez says the FDC and BOP's treatment of pregnant inmates is despicable, but not entirely shocking. It is part of a much broader erosion of human rights.
"We are living in a country now where we torture people in Guantanamo, in Abu Ghraib," he says. "These [inmates] are the people that we most dislike. The general opinion of the population is that they deserve it, so they get the worst treatment."
(FDC officials declined multiple requests from New Times to discuss complaints by Perez and other attorneys about health conditions at the prison.)
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