Press Comment: Prison releases

Immediate release: In response government announcement that pregnant women and mothers and babies on MBUs will be released

Contact: Laura Hill 07971 755586,

Email: laura.hill@wipuk.org

The government must take further action to immediately release people from prison – failure to act now will risk more deaths both inside and outside of prison.

  • The release of mothers and babies on prison Mother and Baby Units and pregnant women from prison is a first step to dealing with this crisis but far more people need to be released. Women in Prison call on the government to take immediate action to release women from prison to radically reduce the women’s prison population.
  • Charities including Women in Prison are calling on the government to guarantee access to housing and financial and community support to all those who are released
  • Failure to reduce the prison population is undermining government efforts to protect public health during the pandemic.

The Government’s announcement to release mothers and babies on prison Mother and Baby Units and pregnant women from prison to reduce the risk of covid-19 in prisons does not go far enough to guarantee the safety and health of people in prison, staff and our communities during this crisis. To avoid the prison system from becoming epicentres for the virus, the government must release more people and take immediate steps to radically reduce the number of people entering the overcrowded prison system. This is the only way the government can save lives both inside and outside of the prison system.

For the women who have been confirmed for release, the government must verify when this will happen and what support will be provided to ensure no one is released into destitution or poverty. At the very minimum, the women should be provided with access to housing and access to financial and community support on release. This must include adequate resources for specialist charities which provide such support, including Women’s Centres.

Dr Kate Paradine, CEO of charity Women in Prison, says

“The release of pregnant women and mother and babies on prison Mother & Baby Units (MBUs) is the first step to keeping all our communities safe and healthy. As a matter of urgency, the Government must now plan to release many more people to drastically reduce the number of people in prison. Failure to act may have catastrophic consequences, causing many more avoidable deaths in our communities both in and outside of prison.

For the people who will be released, the government must ensure everyone has a safe, warm place to go and access to financial and social support.”

 

 

Editor’s Notes

  • Women in Prison is a charity founded 35 years ago. It provides support, advice and guidance to women affected by the criminal justice system and campaigns to prevent the harm caused to women, their families and our communities by imprisonment.
  • Women in Prison are calling for the planned immediate release of pregnant women and mothers and babies on prison Mother and Baby Units; people in prison who have been recalled to prison for administrative breaches; people who were already resettling on Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL); people who are particularly vulnerable to the virus due to age or underlying health conditions; people serving a sentence with 6 months or less remaining and those on remand who pose no further risk from harm. Women in Prison are also calling for the government to take immediate steps to radically reduce the number of people entering the prison system by placing a moratorium on imposing sentences of less than six months, a radical reduction in theuse of remand in custody, and an end to  recall for administrative breaches.  Please reading our briefing on immediate release here.
  • More than 150 charities, grassroots organisations and individuals signed an open letter to the government calling for an immediate release of people from prison, young offender institutions, secure training centres and immigration detention settings. Please read the letter here.
  • More than 50 people inside prison have been diagnosed with covid-19. The government are implementing inhumane cohorting measures in prisons to deal with this crisis which force people with flu-like symptoms to share cells with people who have been diagnosed with covid-19.
  • More than 3500 women are held in 12 prisons in England. Women make up around 5% of the prison population. The vast majority have been sentenced for low level non-violent offences.  73% of women in prison are serving sentences of less than 12 months.