Pregnant inmates in labor forced to travel to give birth

Expectant mothers incarcerated at the Indiana Women's Prison are being forced to hit the road to give birth.
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Expectant mothers incarcerated at the Indiana Women's Prison are being forced to hit the road to give birth. 13 Investigates has discovered a new policy that sends women in labor nearly an hour away to deliver.

The change comes as the county-owned hospital refuses the moms because of a cut in pay.

In his mother's arms, baby Ayden awakens to a new day behind barbed wire at the Indiana Women's Prison. Ayden was born 12 weeks ago at Wishard Hospital, just 20 minutes away.

"I got over here on a Thursday, and I delivered on that next Tuesday. I barely made it over here," said Ayden's mother, Tequilla Wright.

Pregnant and locked up for possession of methamphetamine, Wright is one of the 60 or more women every year who give birth as inmates.

For years, mothers behind bars delivered their babies at Wishard. But 13 Investigates has learned the inmates are no longer welcomed by the county-owned hospital.

"They no longer wished to be our primary care, place of primary care, and they asked us to go find some other options," explained Chris Duffy, Vice President of Corizon Health, which the vendor hired by the Indiana Department of Correction to oversee the prison's medical program.

Duffy says a reduction in Medicare reimbursements by the state led to Wishard bowing out. Now Duffy has to transport mothers in labor nearly an hour north to Anderson.

Heather Jones narrowly escaped the trek to Anderson. She delivered Andrea seven weeks ago.

"Wishard's so close, so if we go into labor it's just right there. Where's Anderson?? They make you sit in the infirmary and make you count your contractions for a while, so a lot of us was nervous about being down there too long, not making it to Anderson in time," add Jones, who was convicted of theft.

Chavonne Freeman says her last birth was so fast, she questions whether she would have made it.

"It was about ten minutes. I think it was two pushes and he was out," said the mother of four from Maryland who is serving time for forgery.

Luckily her labor was induced. Now she thinks more inmates will end up having C-sections and other procedures to avoid risks on the road.

"Whether it's a 10-minute trip down the road or a 40-minute trip down the road, there's always some risk and we want to do everything possibly can to eliminate all the risks and all the possibilities of things that can go wrong," explained Duffy.

Duffy says Corizon has set up new protocols to determine case by case if an inmate should make the longer transport.

"There are some that will never make the trip. We'll look at them right away and say, 'no, we're going to deliver much closer,'" conceded Duffy.

Child birth emergencies will go to St. Vincent's Hospital on the northwest side, not Wishard and not Eskenazi, the new hospital that will soon take Wishard's place.

An inside source at Wishard says the decision to turn away pregnant inmates doesn't sit well for a hospital corporation on the receiving end of major gifts for its new facility.

Marion County taxpayers voted to give bonds, employees contributed over a million dollars and the Eskenazi family donated $40 million for the new Eskenazi Medical facility.

"Is this actually going to cost the residents of Marion County more to have these inmates transported out of county?" asked 13 Investigates.

"Absolutely not," said Duffy.

For expectant mothers the change means just one more area of stress, but for the state of Indiana it translates to $5 million in savings.

With the exception of the pregnant inmates, Duffy says moving prison health care to more regionalized hospitals statewide will cut down on transport costs.

On behalf of Wishard, Marion County Health and Hospital provided the following statement:

"Wishard is not responsible to provide care for IDOC inmates. As a matter of state and federal law, the IDOC is responsible for providing and paying for health care for all prisoners in its custody. In other words, IDOC inmates are the responsibility of the state of Indiana not Marion County. Moreover, an IDOC inmate is not an indigent patient because the state must pay for his or her health care. The IDOC has not entered into an agreement with Wishard for Labor and Delivery Services."