No one expects prison life to be tender and caring.
But allowing a pregnant woman to give birth alone in a locked cell, which is what reportedly happened at an Australian prison, is "distressing and degrading," said Neil Morgan to the BBC. He conducted a report into the incident as the state’s Inspector of Custodial Services.
"I wanted to know how such an event could occur in a 21st Century Australian prison and to prevent it happening again," Morgan said in a statement to Newsweek. "We found that human, procedural and systemic failings had combined to create serious and avoidable risks to both mother and child."
The woman, identified only as Amy, was 36 weeks pregnant on March 11 at Bandyup Women’s Prison in the state of Western Australia.
The BBC reported that Amy was incarcerated for failing to meet the conditions of her bail.
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About 5:30 p.m. she told prison staff she might be in labor. They checked her and gave her paracetamol, a pain reliever, before returning her to a maximum-security cell, Newsweek reported.
She gave birth at 7:40 p.m., alone.
Nurses arrived five minutes before she gave birth but could only communicate with Amy through a hatch in the door. The one person who had keys to the door was not there, BBC reported.
Amy and her baby remained alone in the locked prison cell for several more minutes.
Western Australia’s Department of Justice will respond to the state’s Inspector of Custodial Services report on Wednesday.
Morgan, the report's author, said Amy's pain was obvious from listening to recordings.
"Staff who came to talk to her during this time would also have been very aware of her escalating condition. 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. I also find it inexcusable that it took somewhere between seven and 12 minutes for the cell door to be opened after the Code Red was called. In a prison, a delay of seven minutes, let alone 12, in responding to a medical emergency could be fatal. In Amy’s case, many things could have gone wrong."
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Thankfully, there were no complications with the birth or the baby and Amy and her child were transported to the hospital that night.