Ottawa prisoner gives birth on jail cell floor

“They took her vitals. They told her it was indigestion,” Bryonie Baxter, executive director of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Ottawa, said.
Fri Oct 12, 2012 - 12:17 pm EST

OTTAWA, October 12, 2012, ( - A 26-year-old woman in jail at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre on fraud and drug charges gave birth to a baby girl on the floor of her cell after her pleas for help failed to convince prison staff that she was in labor.

Bryonie Baxter, executive director of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Ottawa, an agency devoted to helping women in conflict with the law, told the Ottawa Citizen that Julie Bilotta begged for help for hours but was ignored by jail nursing staff, who told her she was in false labor.

“They took her vitals. They told her it was indigestion,” Baxter said, adding that jail staff moved the woman to a segregated cell after telling her she was making too much noise. Baxter added the staff said that if Bilotta could not handle labor pains, she could not handle the worse pains when “real labor” began.

Baxter said that jail staff realized Bilotta was telling the truth when only one of the baby’s feet emerged from the birth canal.


The baby was in breech position, which is normally a cause for an emergency cesarean section birth.

An ambulance was called but the baby was delivered by paramedics in the jail cell.

Bilotta would likely have been given a C-section instead of having her life and that of her baby put at risk had she been taken to the hospital on time, Baxter said.

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Baxter noted that Bilotta’s experience was symptomatic of a widespread deterioration of care in Ontario’s jails.

Less than a year ago, another woman gave birth prematurely in jail after being coerced by medical staff to undergo an “early induction” and reportedly being placed on a bread and water diet for refusing.

At the Vanier Centre for Women in Milton last November, Eva Okello delivered a four-pound baby a month premature due to what pro-life activist Linda Gibbons, who had been in jail with Okello, believes was the mother’s poor treatment in the prison.

Okello was sentenced to eight months prison in September, 2011 for practicing as a nurse illegally.  She had served as a nurse in Kenya before she moved to Canada 10 years ago.

Okello had told in an earlier interview that a female doctor at the prison had put her into segregation when she refused the doctor’s urgings that she undergo an “early induction” of her child – a procedure that would have put her child’s life at significant risk.

According to Okello, the doctor said she could not “care less” what she did, but then had her sent to segregation when she refused the induction, where she was put into a small, cold cell and only given bread and cold water.

Bryonie Baxter said she will be making a complaint about Julie Bilotta’s treatment at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre to the College of Nurses of Ontario and to the Ombudsman of Ontario.

“I keep coming back to that image of a woman in labor in prison begging for someone to listen and take her seriously and get her medical help,” Baxter said. “And instead she’s put in segregation. She’s made fun of.”

Contact Information:
Hon Madeleine Meilleur, Ontario’s Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services
18th Floor
25 Grosvenor Street
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1Y6
Phone: 416-326-5000
Fax: 416-325-6067
E-mail: [email protected]

  julie bilotta, ottawa

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