By Angela Greenwood

DUBLIN (CBS13) — Guards inside a Northern California jail are accused of abusing pregnant inmates.

Multiple women who were pregnant while in custody at the Santa Rita Jail say they were mistreated by jail guards. In a federal lawsuit filed on Thursday, they claim in some cases they were even encouraged to have abortions.

Former Santa Rita inmate Christina Zepeda said, “I had no complications prior to this.”

But, Zepeda says in August after a week of lockup inside Santa Rita jail, she miscarried, and she’s blaming jail guards.

“From being woken up early in the morning to having to go to court and be in a holding tank with eight to 12 other women sleeping on the floor,” said Zepeda.

A long list of alleged mistreatment, which also includes rough transport to the jail and not enough rest, nor nutritious food. It’s all outlined in a lawsuit filed against the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department by Zepeda and five other women who were pregnant while incarcerated at Santa Rita Jail.

“They’re hurtful and untrue,” said Alameda County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly.

The accusations against jail guards include abusive practices that led to miscarriages, constantly coercing pregnant inmates to have abortions and even forcing one of them give to birth alone in solitary confinement.

“If you are complaining of problems and you’re not feeling well, the general response is you’re just doing drugs we’re going to be put you in solitary confinement,” said one of the attorneys in this case, Yolanda Huang.

The lawsuit claims that woman in labor “…began to scream and yell. She was banging on her metal door. What the guards did instead of providing her with help or trying to see what was wrong, the guards instead closed the window to her door.”

Alameda County Sheriffs officials say they’ll fight the lawsuit, denying all allegations.

“The person that did give birth in our cell initially went out to the hospital, was misdiagnosed with having Braxton Hicks, then came back to the jail. While transitioning back to jail, went into labor and gave birth,” said Sgt. Kelly.

Zepeda also says she asked for counseling services after her miscarriage, but wasn’t seen for two months. Officials say there are currently about 200 female inmates inside Santa Rita, five of whom are pregnant.

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