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'World-first' pilot links Midwifery students with expectant mums behind bars

Published:13 December 2018

CQUniversity senior lecturer Dr Adele Baldwin

Townsville Women's Correctional Centre this week promoted progress on the innovative Ground Up program which connects CQUni Midwifery students with pregnant prisoners.

CQUniversity senior lecturer Dr Adele Baldwin said evidence on the program's success would enable planning for roll-outs in other prisons.

"Our CQUni Midwifery students are having the unique opportunity to improve their skills by being alongside the pregnant women as part of their Continuity Of Care Experiences," Dr Baldwin says.

"The pilot project involved student midwives accompanying pregnant prisoners through their pregnancy, birth and postnatal care, providing support and advocacy throughout the process.

"This project is providing increased access for pregnant women who may benefit from continuity of care from a known person who has no direct clinical or custodial role.

"The project isn’t just benefiting students though. Initial informal feedback from the project indicates that it helped reduce prisoners’ stress related to isolation from their family, lack of support during their pregnancy and powerlessness.

"As a woman’s birth experience can shape her worldview, it is reasonable to anticipate that the project has the capacity to impact on the women’s choices in the future.

"This, in turn, may reduce reoffending once the women are back in the community, keeping our community safe and improving the quality of life for individuals and the broader community.

"Even more importantly, this project is helping Queensland Corrective Services make improvements to their care of pregnant prisoners more broadly through improving the protocols which are implemented statewide.

"Obviously in an ideal world, no baby would be born in prison. However, the reality is that increasingly, women are being sentenced to prison, and the majority of these women are of childbearing age.

"Projects of this nature can play a valuable role in reducing the mother’s reoffending, support positive parenting and life choices, and thereby decrease their children’s risk of ending up in the justice system as they grow up."

This multi-agency project involves Queensland Corrective Services, Queensland Health and CQUniversity. It was launched in April 2017.