MILWAUKEE COUNTY — A federal lawsuit has been filed in connection with one of four deaths occurring at the Milwaukee County Jail within a six-month period.
The lawsuit says the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office and Armor Health Correctional Services were negligent and liable for the death of Shadé Swayzer’s infant daughter, who was born while she was in the Milwaukee County Jail.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Swayzer — arrested on July 6th, when she was eight-and-a-half months pregnant. She was taken into custody after an altercation with police. The federal lawsuit says she refused to exit the Motel 6 on Port Washington Road in Glendale — and she was arrested for resisting/obstructing and a parole violation. Prior to being booked into jail, she was taken to a hospital by ambulance for an examination.
Her attorney and the federal lawsuit claim her pregnancy was progressing normally at the time.
Despite the pregnancy and a diagnosis of severe mental illness, she was placed in the maximum security unit on July 7th — transferred from the special needs unit, according to the lawsuit. The suit says she was not seen by any doctor from July 8th through the 14th. The lawsuit alleges that a doctor’s appointment on July 13th was cancelled “because she was not a priority.”
She alleges she was given prenatal vitamins only once, and for days received no medical attention.
Swayzer alleges on July 14th, she went into labor, and she says when she tried to alert guards that her water broke, she was “laughed at.”
She went into labor inside her cell in the maximum security unit.
Swayzer alleges her child was alive long enough for her to breast feed, but later, the baby died.
She claims guards checked in on her six hours after she gave birth — and called the Milwaukee Fire Department at that time. The lawsuit claims the baby was not taken to the hospital. Instead, resuscitation efforts took place at the jail.
The suit claims Swayzer wasn’t taken to the hospital until more than six hours after the birth.
The medical examiner conducted an autopsy on the newborn, but hasn’t disclosed whether the baby was alive or stillborn at the time of birth.
The federal lawsuit filed in this case alleges Swayzer and her newborn were “subjected to inadequate and unconstitutional health care which involved the wanton and unnecessary infliction of pain.” The suit claims Swayzer’s “medical needs were deliberately ignored and neglected while she was in the custody and under the care/control of the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office, Milwaukee County, and Armor Correctional (the company contracted to provide medical services at the jail). As a result, (the baby) died in the very same place where she was born — the maximum security unit of the Justice Facility.”
The lawsuit says: “As a result of the defendants’ reckless disregard and deliberate indifference, (the baby) is not spending her first Christmas, or any thereafter, with her mother or family — nor will she ever grow to have a family of her own.”
The lawsuit also references the other three deaths at the jail since April of 2016:
Terrill Thomas died on April 24th after he was arrested and booked on April 14th. The lawsuit says he was placed in the maximum security unit and “after displaying bizarre and erratic behavior, Justice Facility staff cut the water supply to his cell.” He was found dead six days later. His death has been ruled a homicide.
Kristina Fiebrink died on August 28th after she was arrested and booked on August 24th. The lawsuit says “despite exhibiting signs and symptoms of acute heroin and alcohol intoxication, Fiebrink was never placed on preventative detoxification protocol, seen by a doctor, provided withdrawal medication or placed on a heightened observation level.”
Michael Madden died on October 28th. The lawsuit says he was suffering from a heart condition which he had had since birth, as well as a heroin addiction. The lawsuit says he “received little to no health care while in the Justice Facility.” He suffered a seizure, rendering him unconscious, and passed away.
The United States Department of Justice is considering a patterns and practices investigation into the four deaths at the Milwaukee County Jail in 2016.
CLICK HERE to read a letter from Congresswoman Gwen Moore to the DOJ, sent on November 21st — calling for a federal investigation into the Milwaukee County Jail.
CLICK HERE to read the DOJ’s response to Moore’s letter — indicating they MAY investigate the jail. The DOJ says in the letter: “We will carefully consider your letter, along with other information we may receive regarding the Milwaukee County Jail in order to determine whether a pattern or practice investigation may be necessary.”
The contract with Armor, the company that is supposed to provide medical services and take responsibility for the health needs of jailed inmates is currently up for renewal, and the Milwaukee County Board does not have the authority to stop the renewal, which is in the hands of the HOC superintendent and the county’s attorneys.
County auditors are looking into the contract.
In addition to the audit, County Board members have also called for an outsider to conduct a broader investigation into what’s going on inside the jail.
A Milwaukee County supervisor, three Democratic state lawmakers and the group The Progressive Moms of Milwaukee have called for Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke’s resignation over the deaths at the jail.
Meanwhile, as it relates to the federal lawsuit filed on behalf of Shade Swayzer, the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office referred FOX6 News to the county’s corporation counsel for comment.
Colleen Foley issued this statement to FOX6 News:
“This office does not comment on pending litigation.”
Armor officials issued this statement:
“We always mourn the loss of life but are prohibited by HIPAA privacy laws and out of respect for our patients, we cannot comment on patient health. We would encourage a thorough review of all available information including the coroner’s report. “