Press: Another prison tragedy
Immediate release: Women in Prison’s response to the news of a tragic stillbirth in prison
We are desperately sad to hear another report of a baby being stillborn in a prison and send our deepest sympathies to all those affected. We await the results of an inquiry by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsmen into the death of a baby in HMP Bronzefield in September 2019 and support the statement of our partners Birth Companions on this issue.
We do not have the full facts of this most recent case, but we know that access to vital healthcare in prison is a major issue and many women report deterioration in their health whilst in prison.
The government is failing to implement its own 2018 strategy to radically reduce the number of women in prison (the vast majority of whom are serving short sentences for low level non-violent offending). The government still has no plan for how to build the community solutions needed to address root causes of offending (trauma, domestic abuse, mental ill health, problematic substance use and debt).
Even during the Covid-19 pandemic, of the 236 women eligible for the Early Release Scheme, only 6 have been released and plans to release pregnant women and those on Mother and Baby units have been ineffective. Our understanding is that finding suitable accommodation and support in the community has been a barrier to release. In a recent report HMI Prisons found 40% of those released from 2 women’s prisons during the pandemic had to leave homeless.
It appears that the justice system has become so broken that it is easier to keep babies, pregnant women (and many other children, women and men) in prison rather than do what is needed to find safe homes and care in our communities.
Women in Prison’s Chief Executive Kate Paradine says:
“This is the second time a tragedy like this has happened in nine months. How many times do we need to address this avoidable sadness and pain before the Government ends the harm and violence inflicted by our prison system? Time and time again, we hear that women are not able to access vital healthcare with devastating consequences. While women continue to be imprisoned, tragedies like this will continue to happen. The government must act now, starting with the immediate release of women from prison. Only investment in community support will keep our communities safe from harm.”