Effective from today (Monday 17 May 2021), we have changed our policy and will no longer use handcuffs on women who are 30 weeks or more pregnant says Corrections Chief Executive Jeremy Lightfoot.
“Our previous policy was not fit for purpose and did not take into account the added stress that could be caused for expectant mothers,” says Mr Lightfoot. “We are committed to the wellbeing of women in custody, and ensuring that their babies have the best start possible. This means stopping the use of mechanical restraints on women who are 30 weeks or more pregnant.”
“Instead, corrections officers will use risk assessment processes to ensure the safety and security of the woman, her baby, staff, and the public. These risk assessments will inform the number of staff required, the skillsets required of our staff and if any other risk mitigation responses are needed.”
Corrections staff will also be required to position themselves outside the door of an examination or birthing room when an expectant mother is undertaking an appointment or is in labour.
“The labour, birthing and postpartum time is special and should be as stress-free as possible for mums, and our previous policy did not take that into account,” says Mr Lightfoot. “Following consultation with the Office of the Children’s Commissioner and the New Zealand College of Midwives, we have reviewed and changed the policy to ensure that we reduce the amount of stress that could be caused.”
Changes to the policy also include:
- consideration of the use of alternate transport other than prison escort vehicles for expectant mothers who are 30+ weeks pregnant, in labour, giving birth and postpartum;
- that from the onset of labour, no matter at which stage of pregnancy an expectant mother is at, and until the new mother is transported back to prison following the birth, mechanical restraints are not used or are to be removed if in use.
- clarification of the process an escorting officer must take when removing restraints for a woman who has been diagnosed as in labour (if she is less than 30 weeks pregnant);
- that a Birthing Support Plan be completed between a pregnant woman and Social Worker identifying support people to be present during intimate examinations, in labour and giving birth.
“As we have acknowledged, our policies and procedures for women in prison have largely been based on how men are managed, and this is not right,” says Mr Lightfoot. “This is one of the first changes that we are making as we begin to implement a programme of work to make changes across our prison network for women.”
A copy of the updated policy is available on our website.