Guadalupe County Jail Denies Medical Treatment to Pregnant Woman: Creates Serious Risk of Stillbirth

July 8, 2014

Contact: Kylee Sunderlin
(212) 255-9252

Guadalupe County Jail Denies Medical Treatment to Pregnant Woman:
Creates Serious Risk of Stillbirth

Seguin, TX – Yesterday, a parole panel at the Guadalupe County Jail incarcerated Jessica De Samito, a 24-week pregnant woman, and is denying her medical care essential to her health and the health of her unborn baby. As a result of her incarceration, she is being denied methadone treatment, a medically approved care deemed by health experts, public health organizations, and U.S. state and federal governments as the gold standard of care for pregnant women who are opioid dependent.

Jessica De Samito is a U.S. military veteran who suffers from PTSD and an anxiety/panic disorder. In May of 2011, Ms. De Samito was charged with possession of a controlled substance and later convicted. Ms. De Samito was released on parole on February 7, 2014. Following her release, she started self-medicating with opiates—a response to her ongoing PTSD.

When Ms. De Samito became pregnant this last spring, she began a desperate search for appropriate treatment. She finally found a local methadone treatment provider that recognized her situation as an emergency and prioritized her enrollment, consistent with federal recommendations that establish priorities for treating pregnant women.

In June, Ms. De Samito contacted Pregnancy Justice, explaining that she was 24 weeks pregnant, receiving methadone treatment, and facing a Parole Revocation Hearing as the result of a positive urine drug screen in May before she was able to access treatment. She was terrified that, if detained, she would be denied treatment and her baby's health would be placed at risk.

On July 7th, Ms. De Samito appeared at her Parole Revocation Hearing at the Guadalupe County Jail. At that hearing, Ms. De Samito did not have counsel, but she did submit two expert affidavits to the Parole Panel—one from Dr. Robert Newman, a nationally and internationally recognized expert in methadone treatment, addressing the danger of abrupt detoxification during pregnancy, and the other from Kylee Sunderlin, an Pregnancy Justice Legal Fellow, explaining the numerous laws violated and implicated by the denial of methadone treatment, including the Texas Prenatal Protection Act. Ms. De Samito’s Parole Panel advised her that it would take 2-3 weeks to issue a decision. In the meantime, she was immediately taken into custody and incarcerated in the Guadalupe County Jail, which refuses to provide her with methadone treatment despite the fact that doing so creates a serious risk for stillbirth. A 2009 lawsuit against a Montana Jail that similarly refused to provide a pregnant woman with methadone treatment resulted in a settlement agreement that ensures the provision of medication-assisted treatment for pregnant inmates with opioid dependency.

Kylee Sunderlin said: “No woman should be punished with the denial of health care and the threat of stillbirth.” She added, “Forced sudden withdrawal is not only dangerous to Ms. De Samito and her pregnancy, but has been condemned as ‘tantamount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment’ by a 2013 U.N. human rights report.”

Ms. De Samito is seeking the immediate provision of methadone treatment.