Woman Sues Prison for Forcing Her to Give Birth on a Dirty Toilet

When Tawni Kosnosky was sent to jail in Washington in 2013, she was seven months pregnant. Snohomish County jail's medical team reportedly knew she was months away from giving birth, but instead of providing her with extra attention or checking in on her more than often, they reportedly ignored her calls for help when, just a few days later, her water broke and she began bleeding. The horrific way she was forced to give birth in her jail cell might make you cringe—and, sadly, it's a common story we hear about pregnant women in prison.


Kosnosky, who has filed a lawsuit against the prison, says she pressed the emergency button in her jail cell, but no one came. When medical staff eventually showed up, she says she was sitting on the toilet, bleeding and in pain. Instead of removing her from the cell, they reportedly told her to use a sanitary napkin and lie down. She was even reportedly told to stop pushing the emergency button.

Kosnosky eventually gave birth while sitting on the toilet. It's an amazing stroke of luck that she didn't require medical supervision and that her baby was born healthy.

A spokesperson for Snohomish County says the woman was being monitored the entire day and that 911 was called about 20 minutes prior to her giving birth. Kosnosky insists she was ignored, but even if the spokesperson's claims are true—sorry, not good enough.

More from The Stir: Mom Behind Bars: What It's Really Like to Be a Parent in Prison

Stats show that 4 percent of state and 3 percent of federal inmates stated they were pregnant at the time they began their prison sentences. I understand that prisons are already taxed when it comes to their staff and prison guards. But when a person is sentenced to prison, he or she hasn't been sent to the guillotine to die. The purpose of jail is (in a perfect world) to dole out a consequence and then aid in the rehabilitation of that person so she can contribute to society in a meaningful way once she is released from prison.

A prisoner is still entitled to basic human rights. Being forced to give birth alone and on a toilet—or while shackled to a bed or in solitary confinement—is appalling and cruel. And it isn't just barbarous because of the way the woman is being treated. Children of prisoners are innocent and don't deserve to have their lives gambled with because their mothers made a mistake. 

Pregnant prisoners deserve a higher quality of treatment and care to ensure their children are born healthy and have an opportunity to lead meaningful lives.

Do you think pregnant women in prison should be given special treatment?



Image via Michael Napoleon/Flickr

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