Pregnant prisoner in bid for release
Shane Rattenbury. Photo: Elesa Lee
A pregnant shoplifter serving time at Canberra jail has appealed to the ACT government, asking to be freed so her baby will not be born behind bars.
Sky Joyce is serving a 12-month sentence for shoplifting and failing to attend court and is due to give birth in April, a month before she is set for release.
The 32-year-old, who has a "shocking" record for drugs and theft, already has two children, one of them born at the Emu Plains jail in Sydney.
She lost her appeal against her sentence in the ACT Supreme Court this month.
Joyce's lawyer, John O'Keefe, said he was writing to Corrections Minister Shane Rattenbury and Attorney-General Simon Corbell asking for a special exemption for his client, who believes she will be separated from her child if it is born while she is serving time.
"At present, the Alexander Maconochie Centre does not provide facilities for mothers and babies," Mr O'Keefe said.
He said the Appeal Court was aware of Joyce's pregnancy but the presiding judge said concerns about giving birth while imprisoned were a matter for the corrections authorities, not the court.
"Her baby is due on April 17, but she will not be released until May 10," the lawyer said.
"It's not right to separate mother and child so close to the end of the mother's sentence."
Mr O'Keefe said the options were remission of the sentence, release on licence, which involves a hearing of the Sentence Administration Board, or an extended period of prison leave on compassionate grounds.
"I hope the responsible ministers will take up Ms Joyce's case and ensure Skye remains with her child after he or she is born," Mr O'Keefe said.
But a spokeswoman from Mr Rattenbury's office said there was a mother and child program at the jail and that Joyce could apply to participate. Each case was decided on its own circumstances, the spokeswoman said.
"The women and children program policy 2010 is still current and incarcerated women at the AMC are able to apply for access to the program," she said.
"The fundamental principle of this program, as outlined in the policy, is that decisions will be made in the best interests of the child based on expert opinion from relevant agencies.
"The AMC has now been operational for almost four years and therefore it is timely to examine the policy. It is under review."