I’m blessed to have overcome habit, however for a few years it dominated my life and landed me in painful conditions. I started ingesting and experimenting with medicine to masks my ache from being molested as a younger youngster. By age 20, I used to be concerned in dealing medicine and operating within the streets. From there, I grew to become hooked on crack cocaine. I let my household elevate my children whereas I used to be out and in of habit.
In 2006, I used to be two months pregnant after I obtained arrested with two of my girlfriends. My associates obtained right into a struggle with one other lady. On the time, myself, my girlfriends and the opposite lady have been all battling habit.
Police took us to Riverhead Correctional Facility, a jail on Lengthy Island, New York. At first, I didn’t fear about being pregnant with my third youngster in jail as a result of I knew I wasn’t responsible of a criminal offense. I used to be within the automobile on the time of the struggle, and I might by no means get entangled in a struggle whereas I used to be pregnant.
The state had different concepts about my guilt.
About six months earlier than I used to be arrested for the struggle, I had accomplished a one-year sentence for felony acting-in-concert. (Police thought I used to be refusing to present them details about a buddy concerned in a theft, however I actually didn’t have it.) I confronted the identical choose for the struggle, and since the opposite lady claimed my associates and I additionally stole from her, I used to be additionally dealing with theft and acting-in-concert expenses.
I wasn’t in a position to afford my very own lawyer, so I needed to take what Suffolk County gave me. At first, I used to be assigned a public defender. However as a result of I had co-defendants, I used to be switched to an “18b lawyer,” a non-public lawyer who represents indigent individuals. Lots of people plead responsible in instances like mine in trade for a lesser cost, however my lawyer and I refused. My case went to trial. I ended up sitting in jail, pregnant, ready for my co-defendants to get their very own offers and sentences. Their legal professionals needed them to get sentenced earlier than they signed statements saying that I had nothing to do with what occurred.
I was very younger after I gave start to my first two youngsters — 15 and 18 years outdated. This being pregnant at age 23 was high-risk due to a mixture of well being considerations. I had hypertension, I had gained quite a lot of weight, and I used to be at risk of creating gestational diabetes. And each instances I had given start, my water didn’t break. I wanted medical help with a purpose to dilate sufficient to ship my infants.
To make issues worse, it was not possible for me to take care of correct diet in jail. The common weight loss plan at Riverhead consisted primarily of carbs. Pasta, rice and bread have been mainstays, however there have been only a few fruit and veggies. Numerous individuals supplemented the jail weight loss plan with meals from commissary, like cans of tuna, however I didn’t have cash for commissary.
Myself, my physician and my lawyer tried all the things to get me higher meals — writing prescription diets and sending letters to the Suffolk County sheriff’s workplace, social employees within the jail, and anybody else we may. However we have been unsuccessful.
I used to be much more pissed off as a result of I knew that it was doable to get higher meals with out a particular weight loss plan. Throughout my first bid, I labored within the jail, cleansing the medical unit and visiting rooms. The jail couldn’t pay us like they do in state amenities, so our fee was cooked meals. The individuals who labored within the kitchen would prepare dinner us actual rooster, burgers, something we needed, and ship it to us. Now I used to be having a high-risk being pregnant however needed to depend on the kindness of a feminine corrections officer who would carry me salads and different nutritious meals once in a while.
My obstetrician on the surface was in a position to monitor my well being at weekly appointments, however each journey to my physician meant a disturbing transport course of.
In Suffolk County, corrections officers are usually not accountable for taking sufferers to medical appointments; sheriff’s deputies do this. So I wasn’t transported by officers I knew and interacted with daily. The deputies have been each detached and harsh. In the event you referred to as them “officer” as a substitute of “deputy,” they’d get offended as a result of they didn’t suppose corrections officers deserved the identical respect as they did.
Seven months after I used to be arrested, I began experiencing contractions. It was mid-February and someday after midnight. I started screaming, and a lady additional down the block referred to as for an officer. For what felt like hours, I waited in a switch cell for an ambulance and sheriff’s deputies to come back. Then I used to be shackled and handcuffed through the journey.
After I arrived at Peconic Bay Hospital, the nurses and an ER physician who evaluated me discovered that I used to be having “false” Braxton Hicks contractions. My child wouldn’t be born that night time, however I didn’t need to return to jail. I used to be fearful that I might have issues and hemorrhage whereas I used to be ready for an ambulance, however they nonetheless took me again to Riverside.
Every week later, on Feb. 19, 2006, I went into labor for actual. Once more at night time, however not as late, I needed to wait alone in a switch cell for an ambulance and deputies to reach. I used to be in a lot ache, I used to be screaming and crying. By the point I obtained to the hospital, I used to be bleeding.
I had given start earlier than, however I’d by no means skilled something like this. Nobody instructed me what would occur, or the right way to put together to have a child whenever you’re incarcerated.
As a result of the feminine corrections officer who introduced me meals had referred to as my grandma and instructed her to fulfill me on the hospital, my grandma was within the ready room. I simply needed someone there that I liked, however she wasn’t allowed in my room whereas I used to be giving start. Later, my grandma instructed me she may hear me screaming from the ready room.
Even worse, the deputies handcuffed one in all my wrists to the mattress, after which shackled one in all my ft. I used to be crying and cursing, “Uncuff me! The place am I going?” Lastly, when the physician instructed them to take away the restraints, they let the handcuff go, however they saved the leg shackle.
The deputies additionally needed to face guard outdoors my room with the door open. When the nurse requested them about it, they mentioned, “We gotta watch her.” I keep in mind pondering, What does that imply? Ultimately, the nurses did get them to shut the door.
I used to be nonetheless upset in regards to the leg shackle, but it surely wasn’t lengthy earlier than the nurse instructed me, “Rebecca, simply focus, as a result of your daughter is coming.”
After I pushed Kayla out, a nurse took her away earlier than I may lay her on my chest. I began screaming and crying once more, and even tried to get away from bed, however I used to be nonetheless bleeding and shackled. One other nurse ran over, helped me again in mattress, and instructed me that they have been simply evaluating the infant. To today, I don’t know the entire assessments they did, in the event that they have been drug testing her.
I thought of how, if I wasn’t an incarcerated individual, they’d have given my daughter to me instantly and performed the assessments in the identical room. That’s what occurred the opposite instances I gave start. And it wasn’t like I had any Youngster Protecting Providers (CPS) instances in opposition to me. I wasn’t even convicted of a criminal offense on the time! However they took Kayla away. I felt just like the state had been punishing me for combating my case, for being an incarcerated mom. Now my child was being punished, too.
After they lastly introduced Kayla again to me, I requested if they’d take away the shackle so I may go to the lavatory after which breastfeed her. They mentioned no. I used to be so confused. There have been two guards outdoors the door, and I used to be within the final room on the finish of the maternity ward. I wasn’t going to leap out a window! Plus, there was no purpose for me to run; I wasn’t responsible.
Three days later I went again to jail with Kayla. My new residence was a room behind the medical unit that might home two moms and two youngsters. There have been cribs, however they have been fabricated from metallic. I by no means let my daughter sleep in there; they seemed like tiny cells.
There was a telephone and tv within the room, as a result of shifting across the jail with a child is troublesome. We have been in a position to go outdoors and have recreation time, however I needed to request it. And to ensure that Kayla and me to go wherever within the jail and even to court docket dates, all motion of inmates needed to be stopped. It’s a precaution, as a result of you possibly can’t have all these individuals strolling round whenever you’re pushing a child in a stroller. I needed to keep on this field till Kayla was 3 months outdated.
The entire time, I used to be involved about shedding Kayla. I didn’t have a CPS case, and I wasn’t charged with a violent felony. However in jail, you possibly can solely hold your youngster till they flip 1. My household started planning for that day in case I used to be nonetheless in jail combating my case. My brother took depart from the Military and was able to take my daughter in. My oldest daughter was already with my uncle and my different daughter along with her father.
When my child was almost 4 months outdated, the DA dropped the fees in opposition to me. The choose checked out me and mentioned, “We apologize.” As if any apology may make up for my time within the system — and the truth that I delivered my child whereas shackled to a mattress, with deputies watching.
I may have been at residence when my grandfather handed away and when my mom moved out of state for her well being. I’d gained my new gentle in Kayla, however misplaced two relations.
However although I wasn’t responsible, I needed to be charged with one thing as a result of I’d already spent almost a 12 months in jail. I believe they have been scared I might come again and sue them. So that they sentenced me to petty larceny — a misdemeanor with a sentence of as much as a 12 months in jail.
My lawyer needed to struggle, however that might have meant six extra months in jail. I simply needed to take my child out of there. My mom and grandfather have been gone, and I didn’t have a house to go to, however I nonetheless couldn’t get out of jail quick sufficient. My lawyer instructed me, “Becky, we are able to sue and get a lot extra,” however I settled for time served.
I left Riverhead Correctional Facility with an condominium via the shelter system, meals stamps, and a 12 months’s value of provides for my child. This eased my transition residence, but it surely definitely didn’t make up for all of the issues I went via.
Rebecca Figueroa, age 38, is an outgoing and loving mom of seven youngsters. She is within the strategy of ending her affiliate’s diploma at Suffolk County Neighborhood Faculty within the Dependancy Research program. She plans to turn into a substance abuse counselor for incarcerated ladies and girls recovering from habit. Her aim is to work with those that don’t have a voice and people left within the darkness.
A spokesperson for Riverhead Correctional Facility acknowledged that they’d no report of Rebecca making an attempt to safe a greater weight loss plan whereas on the facility, and that pregnant prisoners are now not shackled or handcuffed throughout transport or throughout labor.
A spokesperson for the Peconic Bay Medical Middle acknowledged that they “can not touch upon any particular person affected person resulting from federal and state legal guidelines that prohibit the disclosure of protected well being data.”