'Mainland mums not trying for jail terms'
Five mainland women have given birth in jail in Hong Kong in each of the last two years, but prison officials said yesterday there was no reason to fear mainland mothers-to-be might deliberately commit crimes punishable by a jail term in the hope of obtaining free obstetric services and the right of abode for their babies.
Addressing a media briefing on the Correctional Services Department's review of operations last year, the service's commissioner, Sin Yat-kin, said there were 19 pregnant women in the city's jails, of whom eight were mainlanders serving terms ranging from two months to two years.
Three of the mainlanders would be released and sent back to the mainland before their expected delivery dates.
Ten mainland mothers have given birth in the city's prisons - meaning their children qualified for right of abode in Hong Kong - in the last two years, according to the department.
Some 1,453 mainland women gave birth in the city's emergency wards in the first 11 months of last year, almost triple the number for the whole of 2010, a rise blamed on restrictions placed on mainlanders reserving beds in Hong Kong maternity wards.
Sin said there was no evidence that mainland women were deliberately trying to give birth in jail.
'If such a trend exists... he number would affect our current service... If the number is not high, we can still handle it without the need of more resources,' he said.
Sin also defended the current phone-call policy for prisoners, saying it was lawful and complied with international human rights treaties, after the Society for Community Organisation criticised a policy of allowing prisoners to make phone calls for only 10 minutes every three months, less than in other countries.
He said prisoners' freedoms should be subject to certain restrictions and that it was not appropriate to compare local prison laws with those overseas as different laws were suited to different cultures.
The department said there had been 499 violent incidents in prisons last year, up from 478 in 2010. Of these, 37 serious cases were referred to police. Some 21 cases involved inmates assaulting officers, up from 11 in 2010.
The average daily prison population last year, down 4 per cent from 2010