This Female Inmate Gave Birth and Exposed an Unsettling Reality

November 28th 2016

Lucy Tiven

A lawsuit against controversial outgoing Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio shed light on the realities pregnant women face behind bars.

The suit, which was settled on Tuesday, alleged that pregnant jail inmate Miriam Mendiola-Martinez was shackled while in labor in 2009.

Deputies in Maricopa County restrained Mendiola-Martinez before and after she gave birth in a hospital, violating her rights, according to an Associated Press story in the Albuquerque Journal.

The settlement comes six years after Arizona's GOP governor at the time, Jan Brewer, signed a bill into law that banned shackling pregnant inmates "using leg or waist restraints during transportation, labor, delivery, and postpartum recovery," the ACLU said in March 2012. (Arpaio's lawyer told the the AP that the sheriff's office changed its policies in 2012.)

The suit, filed in 2011, was thrown out in January 2014, then reinstated by a federal appeals court in September, Phoenix NPR affiliate KJZZ reported.

From the Sept. 12 filing:

september Arpaio filing

The settlement arrives soon after Arpaio lost a reelection bid to retired Phoenix police Sgt. Paul Penzone in the race for county sheriff.

ATTN: has reported previously about Arpaio, who earned a reputation for immigration crackdowns and anti-immigration rhetoric during his 24-year tenure in office in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix.

The settlement will compensate Mendiola-Martinez and require special training for Maricopa County law enforcement officers.

The Maricopa County sheriff's office agreed to pay Mendiola-Martinez $200,000, and Arpaio agreed to ban deputies from restraining female inmates in labor and during the two-weeks after they give birth, Mendiola-Martinez's attorney Joy Bertrand told the Journal.

"Miriam's intent has always been to change the policy and to make sure other women weren't treated the way she was treated," Bertrand said.

Mendiola-Martinez's initial 2009 arrest was on a felony identify theft charge related to her immigration status. From Arizona's ABC 15:

"Mendiola-Martinez was arrested in October 2009 on a felony identification-theft charge. She is a citizen of Mexico who wasn't authorized to be in the United States and was accused of working under another person's name. Eventually, she pleaded guilty to solicitation to commit forgery, was given credit for 62 days that she had already served in jail and was put on probation."

Mendiola-Martinez's case was set for trial on Dec. 6.

You can read the full report in the Albuquerque Journal.