Ex-inmate sues over being shackled just before giving birth

A former Nevada prison inmate filed a lawsuit Wednesday alleging she was denied proper medical attention and "placed at serious risk of substantial harm" when guards shackled her ankles during an ambulance ride in October to give birth to her baby.

Valerie Nabors, 30, who was incarcerated at the Florence McClure Women's Correctional Center in North Las Vegas at the time, alleged she suffered "inhumane treatment" that violated prison policy, state law and her constitutional rights.

The federal lawsuit, prepared by lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, alleged corrections officers kept Nabors' ankles shackled despite concerns raised by ambulance personnel and nurses who treated the inmate at University Medical Center.

Nabors, who lives in Clark County, was released from prison last month after she completed a 12- to 30-month sentence for attempted grand larceny, a nonviolent crime. She was not considered a flight risk.

"In sum, this is a case of shocking and deliberate indifference to the wholly obvious, serious medical needs of Valerie Nabors and the child she was about to deliver," the lawsuit alleged.

The Nevada Department of Corrections, its top directors and officials with the Florence McClure correctional facility are among the defendants named in the lawsuit.

Nabors' mistreatment is alleged to have started the evening of Oct. 19 after she went into labor at the Florence McClure center and doctors ordered her transported to the hospital, ACLU lawyer Staci Pratt wrote.

Corrections officers slapped the chains around her ankles in the ambulance above the objections of an ambulance supervisor who told the guards that the medical team could not work under those conditions, the lawsuit said.

At UMC's maternity triage, a nurse voiced concern about the shackles, but the corrections officers refused to remove them after Nabors was instructed to get off the stretcher and change into a hospital gown, the lawsuit said. Nabors ended up stumbling as she got off the stretcher.

The corrections officers took off the shackles before Nabors put on the gown, the lawsuit said. But when the guards tried to put the chains back on after she had changed, the triage nurse stopped them.

Nabors then was taken to the delivery room, where the guards again tried to put on the shackles but were stopped once more by another nurse.

The nurse told the corrections officers that Nabors was about to receive an epidural and that "it would make medical history if Ms. Nabors attempted to get away," the lawsuit said.

Nabors had a difficult delivery, almost needing an emergency caesarian section, but 10 minutes after giving birth to her daughter at 6:20 a.m. on Oct. 20, corrections officers again shackled her, the lawsuit alleged.

Later, the lawsuit alleged, corrections officers kept Nabors in chains while she was doing medically ordered physical therapy for several muscle pulls in her groin that occurred because of her mistreatment.

"On information and belief, the groin damage suffered by Ms. Nabors was caused by shackling she endured during labor and after delivery of her daughter," the suit said. "Ms. Nabors also suffered severe and extreme emotional distress as a result of being shackled during the delivery of her child.

"Shackling a woman during and after labor and delivery is considered inhumane and violates contemporary standards of decency."

The lawsuit alleged that the Corrections Department upheld two grievances Nabors filed.

Corrections Department spokesman Steve Suwe said late Wednesday that he can't comment on pending litigation.

Contact reporter Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-8135.