Babies born in jail may stay with moms
Provincial government says it will not appeal B.C. Supreme court ruling allowing it
The B.C. government has confirmed it will not appeal a court decision allowing incarcerated women to serve their time with their newborn babies.
The province discontinued the mother and babies program at the Alouette Correctional Centre for women in 2008 after deciding infants were not within their mandate and did not have to be accommodated.
Corrections officials argued jail was not a safe place for babies and that it wasn't in their job description to care for children.
Since then, babies born to incarcerated women have been placed with relatives, or the Ministry for Children and Family Development.
But last December, a BC Supreme Court judge ruled the cancellation was unconstitutional — a violation of women's right to security of the person and not in the best interests of the babies because it would separate mother and child during a critical bonding period.
Ross called the government's decision arbitrary. She found no evidence of any infant suffering harm at a B.C. women's facility, or at any prison nursery, worldwide.
Government separates mother and child
Two days after former inmate Patricia Block gave birth to her daughter in 2009, a social worker took the child away. Block was serving a prison sentence for dealing drugs. She was sentenced just months after the program was cancelled.
"It was devastating, it was the saddest day of my life," she said.
In her December decision, Madame Justice Carol Ross gave the government six months to reinstate the program.
B.C.'s Minister of Justice, Suzanne Anton, says that deadline will be met.
"Prison officials are very aware of the need to be ready. So next time the baby comes, they will be ready, and they will be making sure that they have the best systems in place that they can put in place."
The former program at Alouette was considered a success by health officials.
There were no incidents of injuries or harm to the babies and only two of the nine mothers who participated in the program returned to prison.
With files from the CBC's Lisa Cordasco