BOB HART OUT OF THE BOX

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Wednesday -

BA­BIES Be­hind Bars. What can the ti­tle of this epic pos­si­bly mean? What could a de­fence­less, gur­gling baby do that would get it thrown in the slam­mer?

Throw a rat­tle at its nanny? Stran­gle the cat? Barf on the vicar? What?

Is there a Mr Big Baby in these pris­ons who runs his evil baby em­pire from be­hind bars, or­der­ing hits on so­cial work­ers and the hi­jack­ing of milk tankers? Just won­der­ing . . .

But no. That’s not what it’s about at all. This movie-length doco re­volves around in­mates in a high-se­cu­rity women’s prison — in In­di­ana, US — who give birth in prison and keep their ba­bies with them.

It is not, how­ever, a course of ac­tion avail­able to all ex­pec­tant cons. It’s merely an at­tempt to ad­dress soar­ing preg­nancy rates among the nation’s tens of thou­sands of fe­male prisoners. A bold and con­tro­ver­sial at­tempt, at that.

Words of wis­dom come from many of the play­ers in this all-see­ing doco. A griz­zled old fe­male screw notes that ‘‘ if you’re preg­nant and you’re in prison, you’ve got to feel you’ve failed pretty bad’’. Well, yes. ‘‘ Hav­ing a baby in prison is no pic­nic,’’ re­veals Dr Richard Tan­ner, the med­i­cal di­rec­tor of

Prison: An in­mate and her baby the pro­gram. No. Re­ally? How about for the baby?

Pris­oner Donna is 20 and eight weeks preg­nant when she checks in. This will be her sec­ond baby, and she is pretty sure that her boyfriend, an af­fa­ble drug dealer, will be re­ally kind to it when he, too, is re­leased from prison.

Donna knows lots of great bed­time sto­ries. She tells of one lively young ex-con mum who cut up her baby, cooked it, and fed it to her hus­band. Or so she says.

Pris­oner Bobbi is en­dur­ing her eighth preg­nancy. Three of her ba­bies have been adopted. But this time, it will be dif­fer­ent.

‘‘ I was never a bad mum,’’ she ex­plains. ‘‘ I just made bad choices.’’ Ba­bies Be­hind Bars ABC2, 9.30pm

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