Protesters in London demand an end to imprisonment for pregnant women
A multi-generational protest took place today on the steps of the Royal Court of Justice in London.
Babies, children and their parents gather We demand an end to the imprisonment of pregnant women.
Protesters are calling on the Sentencing Council to stop courts from sending pregnant women and mothers to jail.
Armed with autographs, the group sang nursery rhymes in the London drizzle and called for change.
Babies dressed in yellow and green clothes gathered to celebrate Mother’s Day and sang nursery rhymes together.
The protest was organized by the Level Up and Don’t Give Birth Behind Bars campaign group.
Since the deaths of two babies in custody over the past three years, both groups have worked to highlight the need to end the practice of imprisoning pregnant women.
“Prison will never be a safe place to get pregnant,” said Janey Starling, co-director of Level Up. Statistics show that pregnant women in prison are five times more likely to have a stillbirth. This means that if a court sentences a woman to prison, she is likely to be sentenced to stillbirth as well.
“Courts have the power to prevent the senseless and unnecessary harm the prison system causes to pregnant women, new mothers and babies.
“It is imperative that the Sentencing Council introduce new sentencing practices for pregnant women and new mothers.
“Instead, babies get the best start in life when women are supported in their communities.”
Last year, the Royal College of Midwives was among the high-profile signatories of an open letter declaring that “prisons are no place for pregnant women” and calling on the Sentencing Council to review the court’s sentencing practices for pregnant women.
In the wake of a baby’s death at HMP Bronzefield in 2019, His Majesty’s Prison and Probation Ombudsman said, “The fact that women are locked behind doors for a significant amount of time makes all Pregnancy is high risk.” .’
The Sentencing Council, which has its secretariat in the Royal Courts of Justice, has pledged to consider whether new guidance on the sentencing of pregnant women is needed.
Women make up about 4% of the total prison population, with about 3,200 in prisons in England and Wales. The majority of women spend less than 12 months in prison.
On average, there were 29 pregnant women in prison in 2021/22 and 50 births among women in custody in 2021/22. Ninety-four percent of her births took place in hospital, and three took place during transit to hospital or in prison.
Women in prison are five times more likely to suffer a stillbirth.
Aisha Dodwell, on behalf of the campaign group Birds Behind Birds, said, “The need to even protest to demand that no more babies be born in prison is a stain on this country’s justice system. There is absolutely no public interest in imprisoning pregnant women and their babies.
“Women should not give birth in solitary confinement. This barbaric practice is prohibited by law in other countries, but the UK is lagging behind.
“We are a group of new mothers. We know what it is like to be pregnant, give birth and take care of a new baby. We know we can’t.
“We are calling on the Sentencing Council to pass guidance to stop pregnant women and new mothers from being sent to prison. Prisons are never safe places for mothers or babies.
Rebecca, who gave birth while in prison, also joined the protest.
She said: “Being pregnant in prison was a terrifying nightmare. Prison conditions are unsafe and traumatic for anyone, let alone a pregnant woman. When I was nine months pregnant, I was overweight. was so low that the obstetrician was in tears.
“I hope the court understands the long-term effects of imprisoning a pregnant woman on both her and her baby.
“No one seems to be looking at the long-term costs to the health and well-being of children. I was in prison only briefly, but both my son and I have long-term trauma.
“Whether the courts accept it or not, our babies are suffering and their human rights need to be taken into account.”
Previously, the group was organized the biggest baby protest in history Outside the Houses of Parliament, a breastfeeding protest at the Ministry of Justice.
Laura Abbott, associate professor and senior lecturer in midwifery at the University of Hertfordshire, whose research has focused on prison pregnancies in the UK, said the government should “ignore the plight of incarcerated women. I can’t,” he said.
“Prison is a dangerous environment for pregnant women. Pregnancy in prison is not just a policy or medical issue, it is a human issue.
‗Solitary confinement births are not uncommon, and women give birth on prison grounds far more often than they should be, without proper midwifery support, in sterile and inadequate conditions. I’m here.
“We cannot continue to ignore the plight of imprisoned pregnant women, nor can we continue to justify putting pregnant women in prison and putting them in high-risk conditions.”
Metro.co.uk has reached out to the Justice Department for comment.
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