Pregnancy and childcare in prison
What happens if I’m pregnant while in prison?
- First, either a registered midwife or a medical officer with obstetric qualifications will give you a full antenatal assessment. Each prison has 24-hour access to hospital and community-based obstetric and midwifery services. An individual health care plan will be developed for you and incorporated into your Case Management Plan. You’ll be offered counselling and information about pregnancy from qualified counsellors including advice about guardianship, early/temporary release, community support options, adoptions and pregnancy terminations (“abortion”).
- You and the prison staff will decide your maternity care together. If you have a local midwife or doctor, you’ll be allowed to keep them.
- You can also attend antenatal and parenting programmes. You’ll either be escorted out to such programmes or, if there are enough women, classes will be held inside the prison.
- You can involve your partner or support person in decisions and activities relating to your pregnancy and you can have them attend the birth.
Can I attend appointments outside the prison?
Yes. The healthcare you receive in prison must be to the same standard that you would receive on the outside. This means you will be able to attend all the usual appointments outside of prison if they cannot be done in the prison (like ultrasounds, for example).
At least one of the guards escorting you must be female and guards should not be present during any intimate examinations unless you request that they are present. Restraints should not be used unless the guards believe that any risks cannot genuinely be managed without restraints.
Who can attend appointments with me?
You can have your partner or a chosen support person with you for any decisions or activities relating to the pregnancy. Unless there are security risks that cannot genuinely be managed, the support person should be able to attend all important decisions in the third trimester (the last 3 months of pregnancy) and at the least, they should be able to attend if there are any emergencies or complications in the first and second trimester.
What happens when I give birth?
You must be transferred to the hospital and will be escorted by female guards only. Restraints cannot be used in any circumstances while you are in labour and should not be used post-labour unless security risks genuinely cannot be managed without restraints. Because you will be recuperating from labour, it is unlikely that restraints would be justified.
Guards will not be in the delivery room unless you or the health facility request it, or if there are security concerns that couldn’t be managed otherwise.
How do I apply for early release if I am pregnant?
The Parole Board has the power to grant your early release, or temporary release from prison if you’re pregnant. With the help of your case manager and unit manager, you’ll draft an application for early release. This goes to the general manager of the prison, who then makes a submission to the Parole Board recommending for or against early release. The Parole Board will consider the early release of every prisoner who is pregnant, whether or not early release has been recommended.
How will they decide if I can be released early?
The following factors will be taken into account:
- your security classification
- the “integrity” of your sentence: If you’ve only served a very short part of a long sentence, the chances of you being released early decrease. Temporary release may also be considered.
Whether or not you’re likely to re-offend or observe your conditions of release. If you’ve been in prison before, your chances of being released early also decrease.
The welfare and best interests of you and your child, taking into account:
- The views of Oranga Tamariki about your ability to provide a safe and caring environment for the child. If Oranga Tamariki thinks it’s not in the child’s best interest to remain with you, you might not be granted early release.
- The views of the Community Probation Service about your living arrangements after release, parole conditions and other issues.
- Your previous response to community-based sanctions.
Can I have my child with me in prison?
Yes. There are ‘Mothers with Babies Units’ designed for female prisoners with young children.
If you’re pregnant, or already have a child under two, you can apply to have your child with you in the unit until they turn two years old.
Units are specially designed to make sure you can properly care for your child, including being given sufficient opportunities to breastfeed. You will be provided with parenting information, education and support and will develop a special management plan with your case manager.
How do I get into a Mother with Babies Unit?
You must meet certain criteria:
- You must have been the child’s primary caregiver before going to prison or likely be the primary caregiver on release.
- You can’t have a conviction for violent or sexual offending against children.
- You must agree to undergo screening to identify any possible mental health or substance abuse issues.
- It must be in the child’s best interests to be with you in prison.
You will have to sign a “parenting agreement” stating that you have responsibility for the child.
If your request is denied, you will be given the reasons why in writing. If you are unhappy with the decision, you can appeal within 14 days and your request will be reconsidered.
What is a parenting agreement?
A parenting agreement states that you are responsible for the care of your child while in prison.
You must agree to:
- an alternative caregiver who will care for the child when the placement ends or in an emergency
- attend any parenting education programmes if directed
- make necessary arrangements for your child to have health and well-being checks
- attend any treatment or counselling as directed
- attend any other programmes identified in your management plan
- co-operate in a planned separation from your child when the placement years.
Can I get financial support?
The prison will only supply some basic items for your child. You are expected to use financial assistance to buy clothing and food.
Yes. You can apply for child support or a family assistance benefit. To receive child support (funds taken from the other parent’s earnings) you must be separated from the other parent permanently (not just while in prison). Family assistance benefits can be applied for through MSD.
The prison will only supply some basic items for your child. You are expected to use financial assistance to buy clothing and food, including infant formula if you are bottle-feeding.
If I don’t have my child with me, can I see them regularly?
Yes. If you have a baby in prison, or already have a child under two, you can apply for daily visits, so you can bond with and feed your baby. You will need to have an agreement between you, the prison and the caregiver of the child. It must be in the child’s best interests to visit you daily in prison.
You are able to visit with your child in a specially designed ‘feeding and bonding facility’ that is set up like a household lounge. In the facility you will have access to:
- a baby changing area
- running water and toilet facilities
- space for a cot
- an outside area
- meals will be supplied if required.
Breast pumps and chill bags will be available in the facility and in your cell at night.