Former Santa Rita inmate describes giving birth in isolation cell

DUBLIN, Calif. (KGO) -- A former Santa Rita Jail inmate who says she gave birth alone in an isolated cell is speaking out.

Candace Steel spoke to ABC7 News over Skype alongside her sister and baby named Hope.

"I try to block that day, to be honest, because I don't like reliving it," said Steel.

Candace Steel calls her birth story a miracle. She was an inmate at Santa Rita Jail in July of 2017. Her attorney says she had been arrested for trespassing. Steel, who was 8 months pregnant, complained of cramping and was taken to the hospital where she was mis-diagnosed with Braxton Hicks or false labor.

RELATED: Advocates demand end to late-night releases of female prisoners from Santa Rita Jail

Back at the jail two days later, Steel says she was screaming in pain.

"These girls were trying to tell these women deputies go help me and they didn't. They sat there and laughed at me," said Steel.

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Candace Steel spoke to ABC7 News over Skype alongside her sister and baby named Hope.

Steel's attorney says she was placed in an isolation cell, where deputies closed a sliding window to muffle her screams.

"They decided that we're just going to park her in a concrete box and shut her up and that's abusive," said her attorney, Yolanda Huang.

Steel went into labor.

"My mother instincts survival skills just kicking in and I pushed and then stood up and then pulled her out and noticed that she was coughing trying to get air. And I noticed the umbilical cord was around her neck so I undid that, stuck my finger in her throat so she could breathe and a couple of minutes later, the deputy opens the door and all she could say was oh, OK," said Steel.

RELATED: Motion alleges pregnant Santa Rita Jail inmates mistreated

The Alameda County Sheriff's Office says Steel did not give birth alone.

"Our staff discovered her in that process, administered first aid and helped her to deliver the baby," said Alameda County Sheriff's Office Spokesperson Ray Kelly -- a point she disputes.

"They didn't deliver jack crud, it was all me," said Steel.

The Alameda County Sheriff's Office says over the last year, it has gone over its OBGYN program.

"Every program meets or exceeds standards, this is a very unfortunate situation where this happened," said Kelly.

Huang filed a similar class action lawsuit on behalf of pregnant inmates at Santa Rita Jail in January. She says Steel's experience inspired the other inmates to contact her and share their stories. Huang says that lawsuit is now in settlement talks.

Here's a link to the full complaint.
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