Since hearing the tragic death of a new born dying in a Prison cell in 2019. The question is still being asked as to why this has not been looked into further.
Why was she alone in the cell?
Why are pregnant women left alone cells?
Why is the remand there?
Should pregnant women be in Prison?
It is also classed as the normal that for every woman who gives birth in Prison has the right to keep their child with them, but for only 18 months.
Within those 18months, they are placed, if they have space, in a Mother and Baby Unit.
The following prisons have mother and baby units:
When giving birth within Prisons in the UK, the Mothers and Babies are then placed in a Mother and Baby Unit and begin their short journey together for the first 18 months.
Once this term finishes, the baby is then placed in the care of Social Services.
They then need to find care for the child. This is either through the parents of the prisoner or family relatives.
An estimates 600 women are pregnant within prisons across the United Kingdom and Wales every year, and within them, around 100 babies are born.
One story emerged of how one woman gave birth alone in her cell. On September 27th 2019, she was being held at HMP Bronzefield.
When the prison staff visited the woman’s cell in the morning the baby had died.
Since this tragedy has occurred, several investigations have now begun within the following:
Internal investigation at HMP Bronzefield
Internal Sodexo review
Joint investigation between the Prison Service and HMP Bronzefield
NHS Clinical Review
Police Major Crimes Investigation
Police Safeguarding investigation
Surrey Social Services Rapid Response Review
“Crying for pain relief”
Pregnant women are subjected to a particularly deficient level of care within prisons.
Overcrowding and the understaffing of health professionals, women within Prison are often left without pre and anti-natal care, trained nurses, or access to midwives.
The basic necessities we are given whilst giving birth, and the after care we receive when welcoming a new life into the world are extremely scarce within the Prison walls for these women.
A study revealed that most women are left with the bare necessities when giving birth. And are left with very little.
Some women cry out for a softer mattress, whilst others cry out for pain relief, these basic needs should not be overlooked, and we are left to ask the question, why?
Why are these needs being overlooked?
Not only do these women struggle with the after effects of birth, there is then the chance of dealing with the emotional pain.
If after giving birth, there is no space within a Mother and Baby Unit, the baby is then taken and placed into care, leaving the new mother to deal with the emotional and physical pain. And not only that, the mental side effects.
More than 60% of women in custody have experienced domestic abuse and around half have a history of substance misuse. Compared to men, women in prison are much more likely to be primary carers with almost 50% of them having children in the community.
Lucy Frazer QC MP, Minister for Prisons and Probation said:
“Pregnant women and those in prison with young children often come from complex backgrounds and with specific needs, which is why it is vital we provide them with the best possible support.
Staff on Mother and Baby Units do an incredible job but we also need that tailored care for women in prison who are pregnant or separated from their young children.
The changes we plan to make will help to ensure children get a good start in life, looked after by a mum better able to turn her own life around thanks to the support of prison and probation staff.”
Although the law states that everyone has a right to good health care within Prison. It states this within the European Convention of Human Rights 1950.
But regardless of this, almost half of England’s and Wales prisons are providing less than adequate healthcare services to their inmates.
The worst part is that The Prison Act of 1952 does not make any mention of the legal obligation to provide health services to incarcerated persons and nor does the Health and Social Care Act (2012).
So we are yet to see the full effects of these new plans to help support our women in Prisons. Time will tell, but how much time do we really have?