EAST LYME, Conn. Navaah is a sweet, little girl with a bright smile. She loves having fun and running around her grandmother’s backyard.
But she doesn’t do the same things as her 2-year-old peers. She’s not verbal and has a developmental delay.
It’s unclear if that’s due to the way her life story began — behind bars, inside a toilet bowl at York Correctional Institution, Connecticut’s only women’s prison.
Her mother, Tianna Laboy, was just 20 when she gave birth inside of her prison cell.
“She made it,” Tianna’s mother, Karine Laboy, said of her granddaughter. “There’s babies that didn’t make it falling into that bowl.”
Now, Karine is raising her granddaughter while Tianna serves time.
Tianna, who has been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, was 19 when she was charged with stabbing her partner in New Britain. She’s still behind bars with more than three years left on her sentence.
But before her convicted, she complained of labor pains for three days at 33 weeks pregnant.
“Every pregnant woman has a false alarm, but she knew she was in labor,” Karine told News 8. “She knew there was something wrong and she asked them for help.”
But, help didn’t come.
So, she gave birth on the toilet and the newborn hit her head as she fell into the toilet bowl, according to the lawsuit.
Tianna pulled the baby out of the toilet and, at the urging of her cellmate, “patted her on the back to get all the fluid out.” According to the lawsuit, that is when the baby then began to breathe.
The Connecticut Department of Correction’s (DOC) internal investigation spans hundreds of pages. The DOC said it moved swiftly to fire a nurse found at fault, but the family filed a federal civil rights suit against other employees.
They claim a prison employee falsified log books and nurses didn’t have proper labor training.
“This is the only women’s prison in the state,” said Ken Krayeske, the family’s attorney. “Connecticut has a constitutional duty to provide healthcare to women and we need them to take that duty seriously.”
Tianna and Karine are seeking money damages. But more than that, they want Connecticut to take responsibility.
“I don’t understand how the State of Connecticut can continue to defend the indefensible in the 21st Century,” said Krayeske.
Attorney General William Tong’s Office said it has a constitutional, statutory and ethical duty to defend the state and cannot commit taxpayer dollars unless damages are proven through trial or negotiations.
In a statement, a spokesperson said in part:
We have engaged, and will continue to engage, in good faith settlement negotiations with plaintiff’s counsel.
Things could have been a lot worse for Navaah. Tianna’s mother said her daughter is still traumatized by Navaah’s birth and her attorneys feel she no longer belongs at York.
Officials with Tong’s office said that is beyond their control.
“The only thing she did say to me, ‘I wish you would have been there, mom, because I was scared.”