The Mother, The Baby and The Prison – A better future?
Prison life; Mother and Baby Units
The following prisons have mother and baby units:
• Eastwood Park
• New Hall
• Askham Grange
There are currently thirteen Female Prisons across England with only six of them accommodating Mother and Baby Units providing care for women and their babies.
It is known that women who give birth in prisons in the UK can be with their babies for the first year and a half in a secure Mother and Baby Unit, and anyone within that prison can apply to have their baby kept with them for the first 18 months. After this, the welfare of the child is arranged by Social Services to arrange the other parent, or a family member of the prisoner to take custody of the baby, or to have the baby placed into Foster Care. This in mind, with around 17,000 children being separated from their Mothers after the first 18 months, it raises the question, is there another way?
Perhaps there needs to be a change…
Questions are being asked and concerns are now being raised as to whether the welfare of the Mothers and their Babies within the UK Prisons is being met.
One story had emerged regarding a female prisoner who had described the moment she gave birth to her little girl, in her cell, with two unqualified nurses at hand. She described that there was nothing given to her in aid of her birth, so she wrapped her newborn daughter in the clothes she was wearing and waited to be seen by a professional.
More concerns are being raised that the welfare of Mothers within Prisons just simply is not being met and something must be done.
Importantly an impact is the welfare effect it has on the children themselves, the lasting effect of taking a child away from their mother can be in most cases catastrophic.
When researching examples of the traumatic experiences both Mothers and Children we found some examples showed the true tragedy of how it is run…
One story read: “I dropped my children off at their three different schools and parked my car up on a two-hour slot in front of the courtroom. Within 15 minutes, the judge decided to sentence me to three years to make an example out of me, and I went down the stairs. Within a short space of time, my mothering roles, everything that I am as a woman, had been stripped and taken away”
Back in 2019, a story emerged of how an expectant mother lost her baby after giving birth to it in her cell, alone. This case raised serious questions about how the woman came to be alone, unsupervised, and without any medical support during her labour and birth, and how further investigations should be raised about the conditions at the privately run prison.
Dr Kate Paradine, the chief executive of the charity Women in Prison, said: “All mothers should have the right to give birth in dignity. But time and time again, we hear of situations where this is not happening, with mothers regularly being denied access to the vital health and maternity care necessary to give birth safely. This has devastating consequences not only for the baby and mother, but also for the rest of the family they are separated from.”
Finally, Deborah Coles, director of the charity INQUEST who called for an independent inquiry into the baby’s death said, “This is horrifying and exposes the utter inhumanity of a prison system where a woman can give birth alone in a cell and the baby dies…
The death of a baby behind bars warrants an independent inquiry. The fact that the PPO is not investigating makes this even more essential.”
Every year, around 600 pregnant women are living within prisons across England and Wales, and around 100 babies are born there. It is now vital that change becomes a focus.