Woman in Ottawa jailhouse birth to plead guilty
2 investigations underway into birth of baby boy at Ottawa jail in September
A Cornwall, Ont., woman who gave birth on the floor of an Ottawa jail cell will plead guilty to fraud charges Thursday that will see her and her baby released from custody, the woman told CBC News.
Julie Bilotta, 26, gave birth prematurely on Sept. 29, complaining at the time that her pleas for help were ignored. The incident sparked outrage across the country and was described by women's groups as just another example of the harsh conditions women endure behind bars in Canada.
Bilotta was in custody on fraud and drug trafficking charges and she is scheduled to go to a judicial pre-trial hearing in Cornwall on Thursday to face those charges.
But the woman told the CBC's Julie Ireton Wednesday she will plead guilty to some of the charges and she expects to be released from an Ottawa halfway house with her infant child.
Bilotta also said she expects to face six months of house arrest, plus some other conditions, and avoid a trial.
2 investigations underway into jailhouse birth
Ontario's Corrections ministry has also opened a formal disciplinary proceeding after receiving a report on Bilotta's case where she gave birth while in a segregation cell at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre.
The Ontario College of Nurses is investigating the incident, as well.
But critics have said disciplining one or more corrections employees won't fix the shortcomings in the prison system.
"The problems are systemic, they're not about bad apples," said Dawn Moore of the Mother-Child Coalition for Justice. "Calling out a couple of prison workers or nurses because of specific wrongdoing does not even come close to addressing the problem."
The coalition has repeatedly asked to meet Ontario Corrections Minister Madeleine Meilleur to discuss the plight of women in jail. Those calls have gone unanswered, said Moore.
"Her office has been obstructionist and blocked us at every turn," she said. "That, to me, speaks volumes to the fact the ministry is not interested in addressing this as a broader matter of public concern."
College of Nurses investigation holding up corrections probe
Ontario's Correctional Investigation and Security Unit sent a report on the Bilotta case to the province's deputy corrections minister this week, a provincial government source said.
But the report is being held under wraps while the College of Nurses investigation continues. Neither Bilotta nor her lawyer have been given a copy of the investigator's findings.
Shortly after the Bilotta baby was born, a nurse at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre was suspended with pay.
It's not clear whether she is the only employee facing potential discipline.
Bilotta said jail staff didn't believe she was in labour and ignored her pleas until it was too late to go to hospital. She gave birth to a boy, Gionni Lee Garlow, on the cement floor of her cell.
She was granted bail in mid-October under strict conditions, including that she live with her son at an Ottawa halfway house.
Bilotta was also ordered not to use street drugs or associate with anyone with a criminal record or who uses drugs or alcohol. She was ordered to participate in counselling programs.
With files from The Canadian Press
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