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Baby born at detention center dies within 12 hours

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The first-ever baby at the Metropolitan Detention Center was born four months too early on Tuesday to a mother addicted to opiates, jail officials said, and the infant died less than 12 hours later.

MDC chief Ramon Rustin said Wednesday that corrections officers and medical staff acted to the best of their ability, but he still wonders if there’s a better place for nonviolent, pregnant inmates than behind jail bars, such as a residential treatment facility.

“These situations are a constant reminder that jails are no longer just a place of confinement,” Rustin said in an email. “They are now medical, mental health and treatment facilities.

“Should a jail be housing noncompliant, nonviolent, pregnant women with addiction issues, or would they be better served in a residential treatment facility?”


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Rustin also said that while he does not plan to change any existing medical protocols in response to the infant’s death, he might recommend that an obstetrician be added to the jail’s medical contract “if women are not diverted to an alternative for incarceration.”

Deputy County Manager Tom Swisstack said the county is always looking for alternatives to jail for nonviolent offenders, an effort that he said could better serve some offenders while also helping the county manage jail overcrowding.

“Bernalillo County continues to work with its partners looking for viable options for nonviolent offenders in an effort to provide quality service as well as manage our jail population,” Swisstack said in an email. “Our efforts will include mental health and substance abuse treatment, as there continues to be a strong need in our community to develop options in lieu of using the jail as an entry point for services.”

Around 10:20 a.m. Tuesday, an inmate who was five months pregnant went into labor, prompting a prompt response from corrections officers, who held up sheets to protect the mother’s privacy, and medical staff, who tried to give the child CPR and stayed at the baby’s side during the trip to the hospital, MDC spokeswoman Nataura Powdrell said.

The baby was born in the breech position, she said, and died hours later at the hospital.

The mother, who arrived at MDC a week earlier due to a probation violation on a drug charge, is doing well physically, Powdrell said.

Powdrell said the number of pregnant inmates at MDC varies, but there were 10 at the jail as of Wednesday.