Sheriff's office changes restraint policy for pregnant inmates
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Davidson County Sheriff's Office is changing the way it handles pregnant inmates.
Starting September 1, Sheriff Daron Hall said pregnant women in the Metro jail will no longer be restrained unless there is direct knowledge they may try to escape or cause harm to themselves or others.
"In this case obviously there was some attention brought to a specific case involving restraints of a particular inmate."
Juana Villegas de la Paz was nine months pregnant when Berry Hill police arrested her for careless driving.
Police booked de la Paz, an undocumented immigrant into Metro jail where she went into labor.
She claims she was restrained during the ride to the hospital and had one leg shackled to the bed leading up to her delivery, all consistent, according to Sheriff Hall, with the old policies.
De la Paz's attorney, Elliott Ozment, said changes in the sheriff's office policies are long overdue.
"Why has the present policy been in effect all these years and nobody considered changing it before," he asked.
To ensure no restraints are used on pregnant inmates, they will all wear a different color uniform under the new policy, so they are easily identified.
The new policy will also require unless authorized, a female supervisor be on hand while an inmate delivers at the hospital.
Sheriff Hall tells us the changes will be less intrusive than before.
"Maybe a good thing can come out of this. It's surely not about her individually or about anybody else," he said.
Along with the policies, the sheriff's office is working on allowing inmates who deliver babies in custody to have immediate visitation with their newborns once they are back in jail.