Jump to content

Urgent call for review into sentencing pregnant women due to health risks

A coalition of campaigners and health experts is calling for an urgent review into the sentencing of pregnant female offenders, warning of the increased risk of adverse outcomes to babies born in custody.

An open letter to Brandon Lewis, the justice secretary, and the Sentencing Council for England and Wales warns that pregnant women in jail suffer severe stress and highlights evidence suggesting they are more likely to have a stillbirth. The signatories include the Royal College of Midwives and Liberty.

The letter states: “Research into the experiences of pregnant women in English prisons found that [they] were unable to access basic comfort, adequate nutrition or fresh air, and that the fear of potential separation from their baby or shame of being made an incarcerated mother was debilitating.”

Women represent less than 5% of the total prison population, with about 3,200 in jail in England and Wales. The government says it has taken a package of measures to improve support for pregnant women in prison. In 2021/22, there were 50 births to women in jail in England and Wales: 47 at a hospital and three in transit to hospital or within a prison.

The prisons and probation ombudsman published a report last year on the death of a teenager’s baby after she gave birth alone in her cell in 2019 at HMP Bronzefield in Surrey. The woman had to bite through the umbilical cord and wrapped her baby in a towel. The child was dead by the time medical help arrived in the morning.

Data published by the Observer in December suggested women in prison were five times more likely to have a stillbirth and twice as likely to give birth to a premature baby. Research by the Nuffield Trust, an independent thinktank also found female prisoners are almost twice as likely to give birth prematurely as women in the general population.

Read full story

Source: The Guardian, 24 September 2022


Recommended Comments

There are no comments to display.

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.