A court has heard that ten pregnant women have served prison time with six giving birth while behind bars.
The District Court has also heard that SA’s prison system lacks specialist “mothers and babies” facilities, despite more than 80 per cent of the state’s 220 female prisoners having children.
Judge Paul Cuthbertson heard yesterday that SA was the only state without such facilities, with the original program being cancelled more than a decade ago.
Lawyers for mother and twice-convicted drug trafficker Soraya Louise Constant, who is seeking a suspended sentence, said that was due to a lack of money and interest in female prisoners.
In response to this accusation, Adelaide Women’s Prison General Manager, Darian Shephard-Bayly told the court that while having mothers and children together aided rehabilitation, it was not 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.”
Soraya Constant, 30, has pleaded guilty to six counts of attempting to import a marketable quantity of pseudoephedrine. Pseudoephedrine is a chemical used in the production of amphetamines.
The offences occurred at St Peters and Woodville North between March 2013 and January 2014, with Ms Constant breaching a suspended sentence she was already serving.
In January, she asked the court for mercy, saying her child would likely repeat her criminal mistakes if they were separated by an immediate prison term.
Yesterday during questioning, Mr Shephard-Bayley was cross-examined by Constant’s barrister, Heather Stokes.
He said SA led the nation in pre-release and home detention programs for female prisoners, with family visits up to three hours in length permitted on weekends.
“You are correct in saying that, in terms of a purpose-built facility, there is nothing dedicated in this state,” he said. “At any one time we are approaching 200 women in custody in SA, with another 20 on home detention. Prisoners who are mothers, we’re talking 80 per cent, but in terms of those who’d use such facilities you’re talking probably about 5 per cent at any one time.”
Mr Shephard-Bayley agreed women who gave birth while in custody were returned to prison after 48 hours, and their babies placed into care with relatives or by Families SA.
He also agreed that, in the past two years, there had been 10 prison pregnancies resulting in six women giving birth while serving custodial sentences.
Judge Cuthbertson remanded Ms Constant on continuing bail for sentencing next month.
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