Inmate 'traumatized' by Ottawa jailhouse birth

The Cornwall, Ont., woman who gave birth inside an Ottawa jail cell tells CBC News she is seeking psychological support after being placed in a segregated cell when she returned to the jail.

Julie Bilotta, who sees her newborn son in supervised visit Saturday, has 3 prior convictions

Inmate mother speaks

10 years ago
Duration 2:47
Julie Bilotta, the inmate who gave birth in jail, talks about her charges and missing her baby.

The Cornwall, Ont., woman who gave birth inside an Ottawa jail cell says she has been traumatized by the incident and is currently seeing a psychiatrist while behind bars.

Julie Bilotta, 26, gave birth to her son, Gionni, on the evening of Sept. 29, while she was in a segregated jail cell at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre.

Her son was born one month early and allegedly in a breech position, which means he came out with the feet or buttocks first instead of the head first.

In a telephone interview with CBC News, Bilotta said she was returned to a segregated cell after spending three days in hospital. She said she spent more than 24 hours alone thinking about her baby.

Julie Bilotta gave birth to her first baby while she was an inmate at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre. (MySpace)

The time alone was difficult, she told the CBC's Steve Fischer, because she had nobody to share her feelings with.

Bilotta has alleged guards and nurses ignored her cries of pain for several hours before she gave birth. She was first jailed Sept. 24 when she was already about eight months pregnant.

Convicted of theft, uttering threats

The Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, which oversees provincial jails, is now conducting a "special" investigation into the birth, according to the minister and Ottawa MPP Madeleine Meilleur.

"I am traumatized. I feel totally disrespected. I feel like I had one of the most important moments of my life taken away from me and it's just degrading," Bilotta told CBC News over the phone.

Bilotta has three convictions on her criminal record. Her first came in November 2010 when she was found guilty of theft.

She was then convicted in July 2011 of breaching bail conditions from that first conviction, as well as uttering threats.

A number of past charges against Bilotta have either been withdrawn or dismissed, but she is currently facing charges for:

  • Use, trafficking or possession of a forged document.
  • Fraud.
  • Accessory after the fact to the commission of offences.
  • Failure to comply with bail conditions.
Kim Hurtubise, who is now caring for her grandson, says her daughter's life was put at risk by staff at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre. (CBC)

Bilotta's lawyer is trying to have her bail hearing pushed up from Oct. 18 to early next week in the hope that she can get out of jail and be reunited with her son, who is now being cared for by grandmother Kim Hurtubise, who is Bilotta's mother.

But while in jail, Bilotta said she continues to have trouble after giving birth because she lost so much blood. She had to have two blood transfusions while in hospital.

She said she is having trouble being separated from her son, as she only got to hold him during the ambulance ride to the hospital after giving birth.

"I've held him once," Bilotta said. "It breaks my heart ... I'll never get that [time] back."

One nurse has apologized to Bilotta, she said, but the "guards act like it never happened."

"I'm just another inmate," she said.

Saturday morning reunion through glass

The Elizabeth Fry Society of Ottawa, a women's rights advocacy group, is also trying to help her reunite with her baby. They have offered to house Bilotta in their women's shelter and they have already helped her file complaints with the Ontario Ombudsman's Office and the Ontario College of Nurses.

"I'm not going to be one of these mothers that pawn their children off on their parents. If I thought for a second I was going to do that, I would've never gone through with that pregnancy," Bilotta said.

A planned visit at the jail during visiting hours Saturday morning was cancelled due to security concerns, Hurtubise said Saturday.

Hurtubise didn't know if the visit was going to be rescheduled.