An Alabama woman named Ashley Caswell has filed a lawsuit against the county sheriff’s department, alleging mistreatment during her pregnancy while she was incarcerated. Caswell claims that she was jailed for alleged substance use and forced to give birth in a jail shower. According to the lawsuit, she was in labor for 12 hours and nearly died from blood loss before being taken to the hospital.
Caswell’s arrest took place in March 2021 on charges related to her pregnancy. The sheriff’s department argued that her incarceration would protect her unborn child. She remained in the Etowah County Detention Center for the next seven months until her water broke in October 2021. Despite her pleas to be taken to the hospital, she was told to wait until Monday to give birth.
During her labor, Caswell alleges that she was only offered Tylenol and was left alone to deliver her baby in a jail shower. The lawsuit claims that she lost a significant amount of blood and almost bled to death. Caswell lost consciousness shortly after giving birth, and jail staff neglected to provide her with medical care. She was later diagnosed with placental abruption, a condition that can result in the fetus being denied oxygen.
Caswell’s suit further alleges that she was denied her prescribed breast pump and pain medication upon her return to the jail. Pregnancy Justice and Southern Poverty Law Center are representing Caswell in her lawsuit. The organizations have documented numerous cases of mistreatment at the Etowah County Detention Center involving pregnant or postpartum individuals.
Caswell is currently serving a 15-year sentence in state prison after being convicted of a “Class C” felony chemical endangerment charge for her substance use during pregnancy. Alabama’s chemical endangerment laws have been criticized for being weaponized to criminalize and jail pregnant individuals.