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CBS 13 investigates: Pregnant women in Maine's jails

Sharon Carrillo, accused of killing her 10-year-old daughter, is just days from giving birth in jail. (WGME)

PORTLAND (WGME) – Sharon Carrillo, accused of killing her 10-year-old daughter, is just days from giving birth in jail.

CBS 13 has investigated the number of pregnant women in jails and the laws that protect them and their unborn children.

Nine months pregnant with her fourth child, Sharon Carrillo is now awaiting trial for murder.

She and her husband Julio are accused of brutally beating her 10-year-old daughter, Marissa Kennedy, for months.

"Definitely someone who's been through really the depths of hell," Carillo’s attorney, Chris MacLean said.

We found out Sharon was pregnant not long after her arrest.

She's one of thousands across the country who enter jails already pregnant, but hardly anyone is keeping track.

"Current statistics that we have say that about 5 percent of women who enter jail are pregnant, but those numbers are quite outdated, about a decade old," Elizabeth Swavola of the Vera Institute of Justice said.

In April, we filed multiple public information requests with the Maine Department of Corrections to find out exactly how many pregnant prisoners they're housing, but they've yet to produce those documents, and also denied our request for an interview.

The Vera Institute of Justice in New York says the number continues to grow nationally, and they're fighting to protect those women and their unborn children.

"If she's being transported, she may trip and fall and obviously that could injure both her and the child, and there are also issues with just the pressure that shackling causes," Swavola said.

A Maine law passed only three years ago now prevents the shackling of pregnant inmates, including during "transport" and during "labor."

Maine DOC and all county jails have policies that adhere to this law, but experts say they aren't always followed.

During Sharon Carrillo's first court appearance on February 28, our cameras were there as she made her way out of a Waldo County transport van, handcuffs on her wrists, shackles on her on her legs.

Her attorney says at that point she was seven months pregnant.

"I think the appropriate authorities should be asked those questions about why she's being transported in restraints while pregnant, everyone knows that she's pregnant that's not a secret," MacLean said.

Waldo County Sheriff Jeffery Trafton says his deputies had no idea.

"We didn't know right away that Sharon Carrillo was pregnant and that's why there was a delay. Once we found out we took immediate action."

Five days after she was transported in shackles, the head of the Waldo County Jail released a memo saying "leg or waist restraints" would no longer be used on Sharon at any time, but he cited "extraordinary circumstances," including "a substantial flight risk," as why she would still be required to wear handcuffs, which the sheriff says is based off her murder charge.

"Often time these decisions are made based on the nature of the crime and not the level of risk that the woman actually poses," Swavola said.

Despite Carrillo's alleged crimes, her lawyer says her child should have a fresh start.

Officials at Two Bridges Regional Jail, where Carrillo is being held, say they follow specific guidelines on the care of pregnant inmates.

"They visit our medical department more than your normal inmate with no medical condition, but it's really routine," Col. James Bailey said.

Bailey says they've never had an inmate give birth in custody, but expect to transport Carrillo to a hospital once she goes into labor.

"When we're talking about a pregnant female, we also want to make sure that they're safe and the baby is safe," Bailey said.

According to a judge’s order, after giving birth the Department of Health and Human Services will take custody of Carrillo's child.

As she awaits trial for the murder of her daughter, her unborn child's care will be a top priority.

"Making sure the baby is getting appropriate care is within the scope of what I think I'm responsible for,” MacLean said. “I'm glad to be having this conversation, in fact I'm glad you're bringing public attention to these issues frankly."

According to Department of Corrections polices, jails are supposed to document in detail every "extraordinary circumstance" in which mechanical restraints are used on pregnant prisoners.

We also requested those documents from the DOC but still have not received them.

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