Ten pregnant women have served prison time in South Australia in the past two years with six giving birth behind bars, prompting calls for specialist “mother and babies” facilities.
Judge Paul Cuthbertson heard in court this week that South Australia was the only state without such facilities after SA’s program was cancelled more than a decade ago.
In January, twice-convicted drug trafficker Soraya Louise Constant, who has pleaded guilty to six counts of attempting to import a marketable quantity of pseudoephedrine, sought a suspended sentence, saying her child would likely repeat her criminal mistakes if they were separated.
The court was told that South Australia does not allow for mothers to keep dependant infants in prison with them, as in other states, The Advertiser reported.
This week, Constant’s barrister Heather Stokes cross-examined Adelaide Women’s Prison general manager Darian Shephard-Bayly. He said that while there is nothing purpose built in South Australia, the state does lead the nation in pre-release and home detention programs for female prisoners.
“At any one time we are approaching 200 women in custody in SA, with another 20 on home detention,” Shephard-Bayly said.
According to The Advertiser, Shephard-Bayly said that the rehabilitation in keeping mothers and babies together isn’t the only concern.
“It would be best to keep people out of jail in the first place, and sentenced to home detention, but professional assessments need to be made,” he said.
“Some people, when they come into custody, are at rock bottom and affected by a range of issues that impact not only on their offending but on their parenting.
“I don’t think it would be sensible, appropriate or advantageous for all people to have access to their children in custody.”
Constant was remanded on continuing bail for sentencing next month.