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Former Pregnant Jackson County Jail Inmate Sues, Claims She Was Shackled And Chained

Dan Margolies
Heartland Health Monitor

This story was updated at 3:20 p.m. to include comments from Megon Riedel.   

A pregnant woman who was allegedly shackled, chained and transported from the Jackson County jail to a facility 192 miles away while bleeding, vomiting and experiencing contractions has sued the county and three of its guards.

Megon Riedel says she pleaded with the guards to take her to the hospital but instead was driven to the Women’s Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correction Center in Vandalia, Mo. There she was evaluated by a doctor and rushed to a hospital in Mexico, Missouri, where she gave birth to a boy.

The suit, filed in federal court in Kansas City, does not say why Riedel was in jail.  In addition to Jackson County, the suit names as defendants the guards, who are identified only as John Doe, Jane Doe I and Jane Doe II because Riedel was unable to provide their names.

“As shocking as Megon’s treatment is, this indifference to a person in medical distress is not isolated,” Jeffrey A. Mittman, executive director of the ACLU of Missouri, said in a statement. “As Missourians, we need to decide if we will tolerate this behavior from those who run our jails and prisons.  The ACLU is prepared to hold them accountable.”

Riedel, now 28 years old and 25 when the incident occurred, described her ordeal Thursday afternoon at the midtown Kansas City office of the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, which represents her.

She declined to say why she was incarcerated but said she was released only yesterday and now has custody of her son, Johnace, who is 3 years old.

“I think for the first two years I was very angry, and I think I was more angry because my son had to suffer,” she said. “ … I’m just glad he’s O.K.”

Riedel said she approached several lawyers about representing her but was turned down until the ACLU agreed to represent her.

“In the beginning it was about justice,” she said. “I don't want someone else to go through what I had to go through or somebody else's child go through what my child had to go through.”

The suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages for violations of the U.S. and Missouri constitutions’ bans against cruel and unusual punishment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and failure to properly train the guards.

Mark Siettmann, a spokesman for Jackson County, said the county could not comment on an open legal matter.

The lawsuit comes amid an ongoing FBI probe into the use of excessive force by guards at the jail, formally known as the Jackson County Detention Center.

The problems surfaced earlier this year, when a nurse told the county’s acting corrections director, Joe Piccinini, about an inmate hospitalized with serious injuries.

Piccinini said the county looked into the issue and discovered that a group of four corrections officers may have used excessive force on inmates on at least three other occasions between May and July.

The incident with Riedel allegedly occurred in October 2012.

Riedel alleges that a Jackson County jail nurse accused her of lying when she told guards that she was having contractions and needed medical attention. Nonetheless, she was taken to Truman Medical Centers, where an examining physician found her to be in the early stages of labor and at high risk.

According to the lawsuit:

Riedel was then released from the hospital and later that evening, Oct. 4, 2012, began to experience more frequent contractions and a severe headache. She was again taken to Truman, where, after her contractions slowed, she was released. A physician told jail officials to have a plan in place in case she needed immediate medical care.

At 5 the next morning, while bleeding vaginally and experiencing frequent contractions, Riedel was told to pack her belongings and forced to walk to a transport van.

“As she walked to the transport van, Plaintiff had to stop every four to five steps because of her contractions and the pain she was experiencing,” the lawsuit states.

One of the guards accused her of lying and told her to “hurry up.” After being shackled and chained, Riedel was placed in the back of the van and driven to Vedalia, a three-and-a-half-hour trip.

In the van, she “experienced frequent contraction, continued to bleed vaginally, and vomited in the van. Plaintiff remained shackled and chained at all times during the transport.”

The lawsuit goes on to say that the defendants identified as John Doe and Jane Doe II refused to take her to a hospital. Upon arrival at the center in Vandalia, Riedel was asked to strip, after which a doctor was summoned. The doctor determined she needed to be hospitalized. Riedel was then transported to Audrain Medical Center in Mexico, Missouri, where she delivered her baby the same day.

Dan Margolies, editor of the Heartland Health Monitor team, is based at KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.

Dan Margolies has been a reporter for the Kansas City Business Journal, The Kansas City Star, and KCUR Public Radio. He retired as a reporter in December 2022 after a 37-year journalism career.
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