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Australian Woman Gives Birth in Cell After Guards Can’t Unlock the Door

by Monte McCoin

In January 2018, an unnamed prisoner at Western Australia’s Bandyup Women’s Prison was forced to give birth alone and crying for help while guards struggled to unlock the door to her cell.

Professor Neil Morgan, the Independent Inspector of Custodial Services, said, “This was potentially a dangerous situation of course with the birth, something could have happened to the mother or to the child.” He added, “This would have been highly traumatic for the woman herself, but it also would have been traumatic for those staff who wanted to render assistance and were unable to do so in the time they would have liked.”

Prison advocate Dorothy Goulding was angered that the prisoner, who was 36 weeks pregnant at the time of the delivery, went into labor without pain relief. “The dangerous situation of this can’t be too strongly emphasized, it could have had dire consequences,” she said. “The whole notion of someone giving birth alone in a cell is just appalling, it’s such huge risk for mother and child.”

A spokesman for the Western Australian Justice Department said the birth was “unexpected” and “extremely rare.” He stated, “Pregnant women are medically assessed when received into custody and provided with ongoing pre-natal care and support that are commensurate with health standards in the wider community.”

The Justice Department launched an investigation into the incident.

In the United States, prisoners give birth in their jail cells on a fairly regular basis, often when staff refuse to believe they are going into labor and accuse them of “faking.” For example, former Macomb County, Michigan jail prisoner Jessica Preston, 33, filed suit against the county and Correct Care Solutions in July 2018 after she was left along in her cell to give birth. Preston was eight months pregnant at the time of her arrest for driving with a suspended license.

Diana Sanchez, held at the Denver County Jail in Colorado, gave birth to her son, Jordan, in a jail cell on July 31, 2018 after deputies ignored her requests for help. “The pain is indescribable and what hurts me more though is that fact that nobody cared,” she stated.

And in Texas, Shaye Bear, 25, went into labor at the Ellis County Jail in May 2018 and gave birth in her cell; guards failed to provide her with medical care, even after her water broke.

And those are only the most recent examples. 



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