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06 August 2020

PRT comment: Care for pregnant women and mothers in prison

The government has announced improvements to care for pregnant women and mothers in prison, in response to a review by the Ministry of Justice, after long running criticism of the poor care that pregnant women receive in prison, and the recent deaths of two babies during childbirth in prison.

Our own research, ’What about me?’ highlights the impact of separation on children when mothers are imprisoned, and found that their needs and best interests are rarely considered by the justice system.

In response to the review, the government has made a number of commitments, including the introduction of a dedicated perinatal adviser in every women’s prison; training for all staff in women’s prisons; and better joined up working between healthcare and prison staff. It also reaffirms its commitment to its Female Offender Strategy.

Commenting on the Ministry of Justice’s review of operational policy on pregnancy, Mother and Baby Units and maternal separation, Jenny Earle, Director of the Prison Reform Trust’s Programme to reduce women’s imprisonment said:

“Our own research shows the devastating impact that a mother’s imprisonment can have on their children, and this review is refreshingly honest about the need for improvements in their care. The children of prisoners are often invisible—confirmed by the absence of official statistics on their numbers. Whilst it’s welcome that the government has committed to rectify this, swift implementation of the review’s recommendations, and the Female Offender Strategy is needed in order to prevent further tragedies and deliver more effective responses to crime committed by women.”