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End to some handcuffing of mums welcomed

Media releases

17 May 2021

Today’s announcement by Corrections to end the handcuffing of women in late pregnancy and after birth is a good first step to putting the wellbeing of mothers and babies first, Assistant Māori Commissioner for Children Glenis Philip-Barbara says.

Corrections announced today it would end the use of handcuffs and mechanical restraints for women at and over 30 weeks pregnant, during labour, and until after they were transported back in prison following birth.

“Every baby in Aotearoa deserves the best start in life – there is no exception for those born to a mum in prison,” Ms Philip-Barbara says.

“Handcuffing women close to and just after birth risks getting in the way of the critical bond between mums and babies that can ensure a loving connection and lifelong wellbeing. It is fantastic that Corrections has chosen to change this practice. This will make a real difference to both mums and babies.

“As part of our monitoring of mothers with babies units in prisons, the Office of the Children Commissioner has repeatedly recommended Corrections stop handcuffing women in late pregnancy and close to and just after birth.

“Our monitoring has shown that such degrading practice was not isolated or exceptional, but embedded and normalised. Today’s announcement is an acknowledgement that needs to change.

“How we treat the most vulnerable mothers and babies in prisons speaks volumes about how much we value the wellbeing of mums and babies overall. Corrections’ moves to end this practice are an encouraging first step in placing their wellbeing first.

“The Office of the Children’s Commissioner will continue to advocate for Corrections to urgently implement the actions and goals outlined in Hōkai Rangi – the visionary strategy for Corrections focussed on wellbeing.

“That strategy recommends better environments for mums and babies be provided outside prisons in high quality community placements.

“Corrections has already developed a blueprint for prioritising wellbeing, it’s now time to implement it,” Ms Philip-Barbara says.