Pulaski County Jail sued over pregnant inmate conditions

LITTLE ROCK (KATV) - The Pulaski County Detention Facility is the target of a civil rights lawsuit alleging a lack of oversight into how the medical staff routinely abuses pregnant inmates.

The lawsuit was filed by Benton civil rights attorney Luther Sutter Friday afternoon. It comes eight days after a KATV report that featured a teenage ex-inmate, Stephanie Hernandez, alleging she was ignored while going into labor in the jail.

Like Hernandez, the plaintiff in the lawsuit was not convicted of a crime prior to her detention in the jail and was awaiting trial.

Sutter's client, Roxanne Best, claims her requests for prenatal care were ignored and that lead to her having a miscarriage while in jail during 2010.

According to the complaint, she was then forced to deliver the baby without medical assistance. It goes on to say the child's body was put in a medical waste bag, thrown on the floor and later disposed of.

"Presumably [Best's] child's body was incinerated in a medical waste incinerator or thrown away in the trash," reads the complaint.

County Attorney David Fuqua declined to comment on Friday, as did the Pulaski County Sheriff's Office.

"We're not asking for the Mayo Clinic," said Sutter. "We're just asking for basic human dignity."

Sutter says his client in this lawsuit, Roxanne Best, is one of five who have contacted him since 2010 to say they were knowingly neglected while they were in the Pulaski County Detention Facility.

The complaint asks for at least $75,000 in damages.

Last week the sheriff's office defended its medical staff made up of 23 nurses and a $3 million annual budget, adding that it's not uncommon for ex-inmates to come forward after their release and allege abuse.

In the complaint, Sutter claims jail workers often cover-up for each other.

"Defendants have a policy, practice or custom of exonerating their employees, agents, and/or contractors of wrongdoing and/or misconduct in order to escape liability," Sutter says in the lawsuit.

Sutter often represents some of the former inmates. He says he's filed hundreds of lawsuits against the jail in his 17 years as an attorney but only recently have pregnant inmates come to him with allegations.

He says more witnesses are likely to come forward as complaints over their treatment in jail become public.

"In our system you're innocent until you're proven guilty, "said Sutter, "and if you're pregnant and if you have a baby then that baby should be protected."