Just over one year ago, on July 31, 2018, Diana Sanchez welcomed a baby boy. But instead of giving birth to her son in a hospital surrounded by medical professionals who could help her and ensure she and her baby were in safe, sanitary and healthy conditions, Sanchez gave birth by herself in a jail cell. Now Sanchez is suing on the grounds of negligence and asking for policy changes to ensure that no other woman is forced to give birth on their own while in jail.
Sanchez was 27 years old and in jail on identity theft charges when she awoke on the morning of July 31, 2018, with severe contractions. Approximately five hours later her water broke but despite her pleas for help from the prison guards, Sanchez says they were ignored. Sanchez's lawyer, Mari Newman, told CNN that almost six hours after Sanchez first told guards that she was experiencing contractions, she gave birth to her son by herself in her cell.
"What we're looking for is for Denver and Denver Health to ensure that this never happens to anyone else, and to take accountability for this horrific incident," Newman told CNN of her client's experience, which she said was "profoundly disturbing."
Sanchez was jailed on July 14, 2018, after writing a check on her sister's account, Newman told NBC News. On the morning of July 31, 2018, after telling a deputy that she was in labor, the lawsuit claims that Sanchez "spoke with Denver deputies and Denver Health nurses at least eight times that morning, informing them each time she was experiencing contractions." The suit went on to explain that "instead of getting Ms. Sanchez and her baby immediate medical attention," medical personnel and deputies at the jail "chose to take a 'wait and see' approach to their care, as though it was not patently obvious to anyone — with or without medical training — that Ms. Sanchez was in labor and required immediate medical attention."
Despite telling the staff at the jail that her water had broken and she was in incredible pain, knowing that she was in active labor, her cries went ignored. Staff passed an absorbent pad under the door, which Sanchez can be seen spreading out on the bed. Her entire labor was caught on closed-circuit video recorded from inside Sanchez's cell.
This is a video of Diana Sanchez giving birth in a prison cell by herself. Her and her newborn baby were completely neglected and were given no medical help. This is inhumane. This is our fucked up prison system. #dignity pic.twitter.com/w1XIeVSUBa— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) August 30, 2019
According to the lawsuit Sanchez gave birth to her son at 10:44 am and it wasn't until approximately 11:00 am that Denver Fire Department paramedics arrived to cut the baby's umbilical cord and provide treatment. It was over a half-hour from when Sanchez welcomed her baby boy before they arrived at a local hospital.
Although the Denver Sheriff Department has denied any wrongdoing in the case, there has already been a change to their policies regarding pregnant inmates. Last November the Denver Sheriff's Department released a statement regarding inmates who are in labor. "To make sure nothing like this happens again, the Denver Sheriff Department has changed its policies to ensure that pregnant inmates who are in any stage of labor are now transported immediately to the hospital," the statement said.
Sanchez has named the city and the county of Denver, the Denver Health and Hospital Authority, four individual deputies and two nurses as defendants in the lawsuit.