Jail sentence on hold until woman gives birth

LISBON – The jail sentence for a pregnant inmate from Leetonia was put on hold so the county could escape paying her medical bills when she gave birth.

The decision was made in the case of Megan Detchon, 23, who was sentenced on Jan. 24 to six months in the Columbiana County Jail after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.

After learning at the hearing she may be more than eight months pregnant, county Municipal Court Judge Mark Frost delayed imposition of Detchon’s jail sentence until she could be examined by a doctor.

Assistant County Prosecutor Don Humphrey Jr. said Detchon was found to be more than eight months pregnant, and imposition of her sentence was delayed pending a review hearing scheduled for Feb. 12. In the meantime, Detchon was released from county custody after arrangements were made to transfer her to a local women’s shelter and to obtain Medicaid coverage for her.

At Tuesday’s review hearing, Humphrey said they learned Detchon was scheduled to be induced to give birth this week, so a decision on her jail sentence was continued to April 2.

The end result is the county is off the hook for paying Detchon’s medical bills, which Humphrey said was a concern, but officials were also worried about her well being and that of her unborn child.

This is not the first time a jail sentence has either been delayed or charges dropped to avoid paying an inmate’s medical expenses. In December 2010, domestic violence charges were dropped against a Middleton Township man who was hospitalized with severe head injuries after deliberately jumping from the second row of the cell block at the county jail.

Sheriff Ray Stone asked the charges be dropped in that case after learning the man was in a coma and going to be transferred to a long-term care facility. The man was hospitalized for 17 days, incurring $284,755 in medical expenses, with the county’s share being $83,684 and Medicaid covering the rest.

Under the contract with the private company that operates the county jail, county commissioners are still required to pay the medical expenses of inmates who are treated at outside medical facilities.

The annual cost can vary, depending on the number of inmates requiring medical attention and the severity of their medical needs. For instance, inmate medical bills totaled $172,000 in 2009. The figure for last year was $76,452.

Stone said this is just a cost of doing business and he tries to minimize it when possible. He also pointed out this was not the first time they had a pregnant inmate.

“They told me about one girl who was going to have her fourth or fifth baby on the county dime,” Stone said.