Condemnation of overcrowding, separation of families, and forced induction of labour
in Darwin Correctional Centre

The National Network of Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls condemns the Northern Territory Government for denying women access to the Mothers and Babies unit at Darwin Correctional Unit, and forcing induction of early labour of Ms Crystal Deanne Roberts. The National Network calls for the immediate release of pregnant women and
mothers on remand.

In an effort to abolish reliance on prisons as a means of social control, we also call on the government to take steps to decarcerate those currently in prison (with those women who have children being a priority) and redirect correctional service budgets to support community initiatives which aim to promote health, safety and wellbeing for everyone.

Information has come to light that at least two women have been denied access to the
purpose-built Mums and Bubs unit at Darwin Correctional Centre due to overcrowding, because of increased incarceration rates in the Northern Territory. This has resulted from the ten-bed facility not being used for mothers and their infants, instead being used for other low security people in prison. As a result, one of the two mothers has had her child removed and placed with a foster family against her wishes, and attempts are being made to force the induction of early labour in the other women, Ms Crystal Deanne Roberts, and subsequently separate her from her newborn. This is unacceptable and represents women being doubly penalized with a prison sentence as well as a loss of their parental rights.

The Northern Territory government are well versed in the statistics. They know that one in two women in prison are mothers. If the government insist on persisting with punishment and exile through imprisonment as a solution to complex social issues, then they must be able to accommodate a mother’s need to be with their child. The current situation of separating mothers and babies is a contravention of not only common decency but also the UN Convention of the Child. The UN prescribe that a child has the right not to be separated from their parents.

From a developmental perspective, neither the mother’s nor the baby’s best interests are served by separating a newborn from their mother. Evidence demonstrates that the role of the mother is crucial for the mother herself. A mother’s separation from her child and the concomitant major change in her role strikes at her essential personal identity and her self- image as a person.

We urge the Northern Territory Government to take the lead and be bold and brave in protecting the rights of both children and mothers. We call on the government to take immediate action to protect their tights to remain together, and ensure no mothers and babies are separated.

We urge you to act now and into the future.

About Us:
The National Network of Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls
represents women, girls, feminine identifying and non-binary people who are currently in prison, who have been to prison, those who are currently living within the confines of the criminal injustice system and those who have exited the system.

Our Network in Australia was founded in 2020 by Debbie Kilroy of Sisters Inside and remains an abolitionist organisation committed to ending the incarceration of women and girls. Collectively we argue that prison will never be a safe place for women or girls, and in fact they are places that entrench poverty, increase trauma and cause further social and economic harm. Prisons, in our opinion, do not result in an increase in public or community safety.