Newborn baby died in jail after staff refused help to laboring mother, former inmate says

Milwaukee County Jail © Google Maps / Google
A woman who was nine months pregnant and held at the Milwaukee County Jail in July said she notified a corrections officer that she was going into labor, but the officer laughed at her. Her newborn died later in the day, she says in a legal filing.

Shadé Swayzer, 30, has filed a notice of claim against the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office, run by Sheriff David Clarke, alleging that the jail staff refused to respond to her request for medical attention when she said, at around midnight, that her waters had broke nand she was going into labor. She says she gave birth at around 4am, but did not receive attention for another two hours.

The child was "born alive, cried profusely and was breastfed," Swayzer said in the claim. Yet complications led to the child's death later in the day. She is seeking $8.5 million in damages, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

An autopsy was performed on the child, but the results have not been released to the public. The Milwaukee Sheriff's Office has claimed that Swayer never notified jail staff of her condition. The private company that provides medical care in the jail previously said the child was stillborn, according to the Journal Sentinel, yet the Sheriff's Office has provided no additional information on the case.

Swayzer is mentally ill, according to her attorney, Jason Jankowski, who filed the claim on behalf of Swayzer. She has been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, according to the Journal Sentinel. She was being held in the jail's special needs unit at the time of the birth, the claim said. The claim does not include the cause of the child's death, identification of the officer on duty when she asked for help, or other information about Swayzer's requests of the jail staff, the Journal Sentinel reported.

Four people have died at the Milwaukee County Jail since April, the Journal Sentinel reported, including Terrill Thomas, a bipolar man who died of dehydration in April after begging for water for days, according to other inmates. Thomas' death is under investigation by the Milwaukee Police Department, while the other three deaths are being reviewed by the Sheriff's Office, according to the Journal Sentinel.

A court-ordered monitor of the Milwaukee County Jail said in a report released Thursday that three of those deaths were the result of poor medical care or lackluster awareness of at-risk inmates. The monitor also said that one-third of medical positions at the jail remain vacant.

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke is a darling of American conservatives for his draconian law-and-order rhetoric. Like President-elect Donald Trump, he has proved adept at usage of social media to cultivate and popularize his image. Clarke, a surrogate for Trump's presidential campaign is currently in the running to be Trump's secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

The number of inmates who have died while custody of local jails or state prisons has increased in recent years, the US Bureau of Justice Statistics reported in August 2015.