Woman Gave Birth In Cell, Alone With No Medical Assistance
A female inmate at a WA prison was forced to give birth alone in her jail cell while staff watched on through a hatch in the door, a damning report has found.
The woman, known only as ‘Amy’, was 36 weeks pregnant when she gave birth at Bandyup Women’s Prison in West Swan, 22km north-east of Perth, in March 2018.
The WA Inspector of Custodial Services, Neil Morgan, has been investigating the incident to discover how it could happen ‘in the 21st century in an Australian Prison’.
The report found human, procedural and systematic failings created potentially deadly risks to both Amy and her child.
Amy complained to nurses of abdominal pain two hours before the birth, but was given paracetamol and returned to her cell.
Shortly after the prison went into lockdown for the night and Amy made several cell calls, screaming out in pain because she had gone into labour.
“We listened to recordings of numerous cell calls in which her pain and distress were obvious,” Mr Morgan said.
The report found corrective services staff were slow to act.
“I find it inexcusable that Amy did not have medical staff with her when giving birth and that it was only after her child was born that staff called a ‘Code Red’ emergency,”
“This was clearly an emergency well before then.”
Even after an emergency situation was declared, it took between seven and 12 minutes for the cell door to be opened because the only person with the key was on the other side of the prison.
“In a prison, a delay of seven minutes, let alone 12, in responding to a medical emergency could be fatal,” Mr Morgan said.
“In Amy’s case, many things could have gone wrong.'
The report also found the prison could have attempted to cover up the scandal by downplaying its seriousness when reporting it to head office.
“It is not clear if this was because staff had come desensitised to risk and duty of care, or if it was an attempt to mislead.
Mr Morgan made a number of recommendations to prevent this happening again, including changes to infrastructure, operational processes, staff culture and training.
The Department of Justice has accepted the findings and said a number of measures have been implemented but conceded many remain a ‘work in progress’.
“Pregnant women will continue to come into custody,” the report said.
“The Department has a responsibility to ensure the health and safety of the mother and the child are not compromised, even in resources are stretched.
“This did not happen for Amy.
“There was no justification for what happened in Amy’s case, and it must not be repeated.