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Minister disinterested in women’s prisons

Katherine Rich
National Party MP

15 November 2006

Corrections Minister disinterested in women’s prison system

Corrections Minister Damien O’Connor shows a disappointing disinterest in the women’s prison system by his failure to answer simple questions about his portfolio, says National MP Katherine Rich.

“When I asked him the simple question of how many prisoners gave birth in 2005, the Minister refused to answer and said he does ‘not consider this an appropriate use of my Department’s resources’ to find out.

“His failure to answer looks bad, particularly when a previous Corrections Minister, Matt Robson, had no problem answering a similar parliamentary written question showing the following birth figures for women in prison:

Category 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 (YTD)
Total Number of Births 2 10 6 5 8 10 4

“Since Labour took over the reins it seems that the Corrections Department has entered the Dark Ages for basic information.

“Their failure to keep basic information is an important oversight. When submissions are soon to be heard on the Mother and Babies Bill it is important that MPs are given accurate information on its likely impact.

“It is not acceptable for the Government to say it can’t be bothered collecting the information.

“Damien O’Connor says all medical files will need to be checked, but this is nonsense. The number of pregnant women is small, probably 3 or 4 in each prison, so it can’t be an onerous task for prisons to count the number of births in 2005. A quick call to each women’s prison would get an answer.

“The senior wardens of each prison would probably know from memory the number of women who’ve given birth in the past year.

“The Minister seems to be unaware that heavily pregnant women about to give birth are more than noticeable and not hard to count.”

ENDS

Attachment: Answers to parliamentary questions 15810, 15811


15811 (2006) Katherine Rich to the Minister of Corrections (25 October): Of the number of children, if any, born to inmates in 2005, how many stayed with their mothers in prison for at least the first 3 months of their lives?

Corrections Minister Damien O'Connor replied: In 2005, two babies resided in a self care unit to at least 3 months of age, a further two resided with their mother until at least 6 months of age and a further four resided until they were at least 9 months of age. In addition, four prisoners were received into prison with babies under 6 months of age and were resident in self care units with their baby.

The number of prisoners who gave birth in 2005 is not nationally recorded and would require a review of all women prisoners’ health files. I do not consider this an appropriate use of my Department’s resources.


15810 (2006) Katherine Rich to the Minister of Corrections (25 October): How many, if any, inmates gave birth during 2005; how many children were born to those inmates?

Corrections Minister Damien O'Connor replied: I refer the Member to my answer to PQ 15811 (2006).

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