PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Five women, ranging in age from 27 to 38, filed a lawsuit alongside the American Civil Liberties Union on Monday for putting pregnant inmates in solitary confinement.
Three of those women are currently at the Allegheny County Jail, while the other two women are out of jail at this time. They’re suing Allegheny County and various officials at the jail, and want the present solitary confinement policy to no longer exist.
Mersiha Tuzlic, also known as Mia, is one of those women who was in solitary confinement. She’s currently out on house arrest. Online court records show at least three of the women have recent drug-related offenses or probation violations for drug-related crimes.
“Solitary confinement is overused in Allegheny County, but it’s really dangerous when used with expecting mothers and their babies,” Attorney David Fawcett, with Reed Smith, said.
Fawcett is donating his time to assist the ACLU in this lawsuit.
The women mentioned allegedly spent between six and 22 days in solitary confinement where they were isolated for 23-24 hours a day and were frequently denied any opportunity to leave their cells for showers or recreation.
“The practice here really has to change and has to stop because the county is regularly placing expectant mothers in solitary and it’s really a backward policy,” Fawcett said.
When Tuzlic was in solitary confinement back in June, she complained about the conditions. She was three months pregnant at the time. Officials say the response she got was: “If this is a problem, don’t come to jail.”
“You have women who don’t get their medication, who don’t get food they need as expectant mothers and don’t have opportunity to exercise or get out of cell at all,” Fawcett said.
The county said it can’t comment on lawsuits.
Per Warden Harper, the current policy follows:
“Pregnant inmates that commit minor infractions will receive an informal resolution or misconduct, but may only be segregated from the general population following clearance from medical personnel. These inmates will not receive telephone, commissary or visiting privileges.
“Pregnant inmates that commit major infractions, such as cheeking medication, fighting, serious contraband recovery, etc. will be transferred to the infirmary. A recreation plan to ensure adequate out of cell time will be provided when an inmate is transferred to the infirmary. These inmates will not receive telephone, commissary or visiting privileges.
As far as the next step in this lawsuit, Fawcett says the ACLU is planning to have discussions with the county. Fawcett says the lawsuit needs to be addressed immediately to end the present policy.