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Procedures used when dealing with pregnant prisoners at the Pulaski County jail are being reviewed and rewritten partly because of a lawsuit brought by seven female prisoners who alleged they were given improper medical care at the lockup.

The lawsuit, filed against Sheriff Doc Holladay and several other county jail employees and contractors, was settled for $179,500, court records show. Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen signed an order May 1 granting a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

"We are reviewing and rewriting many of our existing medical protocol for a couple of reasons," Holladay said. "We're going through some transitions in staff at the detention facility. So we are trying to ensure that everything that is written is understood by those people who are responsible for enactment. Part of that is a result of ... those lawsuits. Part of that is because of this transition that's going through in the jail that began to occur after these events took place."

Holladay said the reviewing and rewriting of medical protocols -- written procedures for jail medical staff to follow in handling various kinds of medical conditions -- is a process that has been ongoing for several weeks and began before the lawsuit was settled.

Stephanie Hernandez originally filed the lawsuit in February 2014 against Holladay, jail Administrator Randy Morgan and jail Medical Director Carl Johnson.

Hernandez and fellow plaintiffs Ratha Parr, Megan Harris Halferty, Lillian Marshall, Shermica King, Stephanie Reichard and Frelandra Womack filed an amended lawsuit in September alleging that several jail employees and contractors "failed to provide proper medical treatment to each plaintiff ... [which] resulted in serious physical and emotional injuries to [the plaintiffs]" and the death of an infant. The purported episodes occurred between July 2012 and December 2013.

Irvin Robinson is listed as the special administrator for the estate of Zachary James Thomas, Halferty's infant son, whom the lawsuit alleged died because of a lack of prenatal care while Halferty was in the lockup.

The lawsuit alleged the jail failed "to provide pregnant inmates with proper medical treatment."

Because of the practices of the jail, the lawsuit stated, Hernandez gave birth to her child while in an ambulance; Parr, Reichard and King miscarried; and Marshall and Womack experienced "bleeding and severe pain" during childbirth.

The lawsuit stated that the defendants failed to provide prenatal care to Halferty despite repeated requests and that "this failure by defendants caused a miscarriage" by Halferty.

According to the lawsuit, Halferty had her son, Zachary James Thomas, in a toilet area of a unit at the jail during the morning hours of Sept. 19, 2012.

A jail report offers scant details on the events of that morning.

According to the report, a deputy was serving breakfast in the lower level of the unit about 5:30 a.m. when another prisoner yelled at the deputy and said Halferty needed attention. The deputy walked over to the cell and asked Halferty what she needed.

"Halferty told me the baby was in the toilet," the deputy stated in the report.

Other jail employees and medical staff responded, along with Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services paramedics, and Halferty was transported to a hospital.

The settlement was divided among the seven plaintiffs, with Halferty receiving $100,000; Parr receiving $28,000; King receiving $25,500; Hernandez and Reichard receiving $8,000 apiece; and Womack and Marshall receiving $5,000 apiece.

"I'm pleased that the county settled," said Luther Sutter, the attorney for the plaintiffs. "I thought it was a reasonable monetary settlement. But what I'm most proud of is the fact the county is agreeing to alter its procedures in how it treats female inmates."

The jail has procedures in place for dealing with pregnant prisoners, Holladay said, that are designed to ensure the welfare of the mother and the child.

"The majority of the females who come in [the jail] who are pregnant, it is an uneventful stay," he said.

According to jail procedures, prisoners with special needs, including pregnant women, "will have a special needs treatment plan developed to meet the individual's needs." Nurses assess incoming prisoners during their intake medical screening, performed on all prisoners received by the jail, to see whether they meet the special needs criteria.

The intake medical screening inquires about a number of medical issues and conditions, including allergies, alcohol and drug use, and pregnancy. If a prisoner requires a treatment plan for special needs, the jail looks at a range of things, such as where the prisoner is housed, the medical care plan and the prisoner's diet.

The jail also requires training for deputies so they can detect medical emergencies, including signs and symptoms of pregnancy.

"Every time there is a circumstance like one of these cases, we always review the process in terms of how deputies responded, what action was taken, how medical staff responded," Holladay said. "When we see that there are needs for either changes or revisions, we go ahead and do that.

"We take the opportunity from these cases to learn so hopefully we can prevent a recurrence."

Metro on 05/11/2015

Print Headline: Jail reviewing practices after settling lawsuit

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