Mothers and babies in prison
In the UK over 60 percent of women prisoners have young children. Women are nearly always the primary care-givers and are often single mothers. At least 4,000 children are affected by their mothers' imprisonment. Only three percent of women have a child in prison with them. So children have to be farmed out. Most are living with their mothers prior to the woman's imprisonment and for 85 percent it is the first time they have been separated for more than a day or two. Siblings are often separated. There is evidence that most children become withdrawn and depressed. One in four has difficulty sleeping or becomes physically ill. Seventy percent see their mother only once a month or less.
Half of all babies under one year who are in care because their mothers are in prison are moved between 2 and 4 different homes. We know that it is vital for babies in the first year of life to form a strong attachment to one person. From this grows a sense of security and trust, self-esteem and the capacity to love. The enforced separation of mothers and babies is another form of violence against women and is an abuse of our power over children.
The Corston Report:
13 March 2007
The Home Office Response to the Corston Report December 2007
Sheila believes that pregnancy, birth and motherhood offer opportunities for growth in understanding and for maturation. A woman may develop a sense of responsibility because she is now a mother. Yet during pregnancy a woman in prison is uncertain whether she can keep her baby until a prison board makes a decision approximately six weeks before the birth. She is in limbo. She may switch off emotionally from the pregnancy or may enter a state of grieving. One woman who was told that her baby would be taken away said to Sheila just after her baby was born, I dare not pick her up and cuddle her. I can't go on. I cannot go on living.
Sheila worked to get women out of chains during childbirth some years ago, and when this was achieved suggested that woman-to-woman support schemes should be set up. As a result the Holloway Doulas were formed. Doulas are, in effect, birth sisters who give emotional support and practical friendship in pregnancy, during birth, and afterwards.
Now we are hoping to create a nation-wide network of support. Get in touch with Sheila by e mail at email@example.com, if you are interested in this project.
Diane Caddle and Debbie Crisp: Imprisoned Women and Mothers, Research Study 162, Home Office Research and Statistics Directorate, 1997
J.H. Kennell, M.H. Klaus, and P.H.Klaus. Bonding - Building the Foundations of Secure Attachment and Independence. Cedar, London, 1996
J.H.Kennell and M.H.Klaus, Bonding: Recent Observations that Alter Perinatal Care, US Academy, 19, 1998
HM Prison Service, Report of a review of Principles, Policies and Procedures on Mothers and Babies/Children in Prison, 1999
The Independent November 2003
Anne Owers, Chief Inspector of Prisons
We should care about our prisons
It is particularly the marginalised who need the protection of human rights.
By definition prisons are closed environments. They operate outside the normal controls and processes of society; and it is often the case that society as a whole is less than interested about what happens behind their walls. We do not talk of our prisons as we talk of our schools and hospitals; politicians rarely feel the need to promise more prison officers, as they do more police or more doctors and teachers.
Because they are out of sight and out of mind, prisons need to have a light shone on them, so that society as a whole can know what is being done in its name.
The Independent January 27th 2003
Speaking at King's College Law School, Cherie Booth, QC described how the separation of a baby from her Jamaican mother in prison, born after she was jailed for trying to smuggle cocaine into Britain, breached her human rights. The woman gave birth to her son in April 2002 and they were allowed to stay together until September, when the authorities made the decision to send the baby to a friend of the mother's to be fostered. The judge found that the removal of the baby breached the mother's human rights and the child's rights to a family life.
Cherie Booth, commented: The true import of the human rights act is that it is intended to introduce a new moral underpinning to law and to state action ... but the Human Rights Act also asks that we look beyond the law.
We need to look to the development of a more broadly based human rights culture within the UK one which informs not just relationships between individuals and among wider communities.
In correspondence with Sheila Kitzinger, Martin Narey, the former Director General of HM Prison Services, commenting on staffing levels at Holloway which meant that women prisoners had to remain in their rooms for longer, which they found very stressful: It has now been made clear to staff that this is unacceptable, and women on the unit should have full association and not be confined to their rooms for prolonged periods. He goes on to say So long as I am Director General, no baby will ever again be separated from his or her mother unless separation is in the baby's interest. Prison is a very difficult place for a mother to bring up a baby but I can promise you that I am committed to making the environment as caring as possible.
He agreed that during times of staff shortage and vacancies such as Holloway has experienced recently, it is possible that staff without a keen insight into mothers' needs have been on duty, on the unit there. I can assure you that we are taking the preparation of staff to work on the mother and baby units very seriously. A new training module is about to be piloted especially for these staff. There is also a continual dialogue between the Women's Policy Group and the staff of each mother and baby unit as part of their informal monitoring roles. I will shortly appoint a national co-ordinator to oversee developments and formally monitor standards.
A doula is a Greek word for a woman who helps another in childbirth.
|Sheila became aware of the needs of women prisoners who were having babies and took action with others to end the use of handcuffs in childbirth, a goal achieved in 1996. The plight of prisoners giving birth without any support from friends and family also became clear. Sheila's article in the National Childbirth Trust Teachers' mailing inspired a voluntary group of London based antenatal teachers to set up the "Holloway Doula Group". Holloway is the largest women's prison in Europe. The Holloway Doulas have now become the Birth Companions.|
Doulas for Women prisoners
A prisoner's mother says:
"When I arrived at the hospital I was surprised to see a woman comforting and cherishing my daughter. She not only stayed for the birth but she and another 'birth sister' helped with the care of mother and baby throughout their time in hospital. They are the most selfless people I have ever met".
We offer support to women from Holloway Prison. Prisoners are allowed to have a companion of their choice. For many, a friend or family member can be there. However, sometimes, and particularly for foreign nationals, there is no-one who can be with them. There can be nothing more terrifying than going through labour on your own with no-one to turn to for support and reassurance. As a group of ten antenatal teachers, student teachers and student midwives, we are well placed to offer doula support. We are non-judgmental and provide a sensitive service, based on informed and individual care for each woman who requests our help, helping communication between them and their health professionals and serving as advocates. We are also particularly well-placed to monitor the level of care that each woman receives from the hospital and the prison authorities.
Women are made aware of us through antenatal classes, literature distributed and displayed in the prison and other involved groups. Any woman who requests our support is sent our guidelines and is visited by a member of the Birth Companions who gets to know her and discusses with her a birth plan. When she goes into labour, she contacts us (via a pager). One of us meets her at the hospital and stays with her continuously through labour. If necessary, other members of the group also support her during the birth and in the days she spends in hospital.
We aim to do this for every woman from Holloway prison who requests our services.
|A prisoner writes:
I was made to feel at ease and even though in a lot of pain I was conscious of her always being there. I had more faith and trust in my birthing partner than anyone else .... You guys have rebuilt my trust and faith in human nature.
For further information click the image to visit their web site:
Other Information - Web sites
Read "Not Part of My
|Well focused organisation with a dynamic website.|
|The London based Howard League has an excellent web site including Weekly Prison Watch|
Prison Inspectors site
|Complete detailed reports on scheduled and surprise inspections of many prisons in the UK|
Prison Ombudsmen www.homeoffice.gov.uk/prisons/prisomb.htm
|A backwater UK site but may become useful in future|
|HM Prison Service||Large up-to-date prison site - published by the British Home Office. Well presented with a wide range of information|
|Includes a Report from Amnesty USA.
ABUSE OF WOMEN IN CUSTODY:
Sexual Misconduct and Shackling of Pregnant Women
A STATE-BY-STATE SURVEY OF POLICIES AND PRACTICES IN THE USA
Rudolf Vis M.P. Reported on
Mothers and Babies in Prison
to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
(document 8762, 9th June 2000).
The report recommended that in view of the adverse affects of imprisonment of mothers and babies the Committee of Ministers should invite member states:
|Prison-Gate: The Shocking State of Britain's
Prisons and the need for Visionary Change
Chapters 1 - HMP Holloway, 13 14 December 1945
Chapter 11 - Women in Prison : HMP Holloway
A fascinating book!
|Ramsbotham, David||Free Press, London
|Children of Incarcerated Parents||Gabel, K & Johnston, D||Leamington Books, New York||1995|
HM Inspectorate of Prisons Publications
|Women in Prison: A Thematic Review||London, July 1997|
|Follow-up to Women in Prison, A Thematic Review
Chapter 11 - Women in Prison : HMP Holloway
|London, July 2001|
|Abstract and comments by Sheila Kitzinger on
Health Outcomes of Incarcerated Pregnant Women and their Infants in a community-based programme.
|MIDIRS Midwifery Digest||Vol 13,1||Mar 2003|
|Statistics on Women and the Criminal Justice System||The Home Office
Research, Development & Statistics Directorate
|Babies behind bars by Julie Akhurst||Junior||Issue 12||Jan/Feb 2000|
Prisoners: an end to second class health care?
|British Medical Journal||BMJ 1999; 318: 954-955.||April 1999|
|Jailing mums 'puts children at risk'
The soaring number of mothers in prison could cause psychological damage to their children and create a new generation of offenders.
|The Guardian||14 March 99|
|Birth in Prison: The rights of the baby by Sheila Kitzinger||The Practicing Midwife||Vol 2, 1||Jan 99|
|The hardest labour of all
The prison system's treatment of a birthing woman
- Roisin McAliskey by Sheila Kitzinger
|The Guardian||16 Mar 98|
|How Can We Help
Pregnant Women and Mothers In Prison?
by Sheila Kitzinger
|Birth||Vol 24 No 3||Sept 1997|
|Women Prisoners Freed from Birth Chains: Successful Campaign
by Sheila Kitzinger
|Birth||Vol 23 No 3||Sept 1996|
|Caring for Pregnant Prisoners||The Royal College of Midwives||Mar 1996|
|Health Outcomes of Incarcerated Pregnant Women and Their Infants
in a Community-based Programme
Violet H. Barkauskas, PhD, RN, Lisa Kane Low, CNM, PhD and Sheryl Pimlott, MSW, PhD(c)
|Journal of Midwifery and Women's Health||Vol. 47, No. 5||Sept/Oct 2002|
|Attachment Between a Mother and her Baby Submission to the
Working Party on Mothers and Babies in Prison
Marshall H Klaus, Adjunct Professor of Paediatrics
|University of California, San Francisco|
|Mothers and babies within the prison system
Lynn Scott and Sue Blantern
|British Journal of Midwifery||Aug 1998|
|Babies doing Time
|Grace, Auckland, New Zealand, 1999|
|Mother knows best, but who decides?
|The Independent, UK||18 Jan 2000|
|What it's like to be a woman on the inside
|The Evening Standard, UK||17 Jul 1997|
Report of a Review of Principles, Policies and Procedures on Mothers and Babies/Children in Prison Response and Action Plan December 1999
Home Office, (1997) Imprisoned Women and Mothers , Diane Caddle and Debbie Crisp, Research Study 162, A Research and Statistics Directorate Report
Home Office (1998) Age Limits for Babies in Prison: Some Lessons from Abroad, D Caddle, Research Findings No. 80, Home Office Research Development and Statistics Directorate, London
Home Office (1997) Mothers in Prison, Diane Caddle and Debbie Crisp, Research Findings No. 38, Home Office Research and Statistics Directorate, London
Richards, M. et al. (1996) Imprisonment and family ties. Home Office Research and Statistics Bulletin No. 38 London: HMSO
The Howard League, In the Best Interests of Babies? The Howard League submission to the Prison Service review of principles, policies and procedures for mother and babies/children in prison, Howard League, London, 1998
Howard League (1995) Prison Mother and Baby Units, Howard League, London
Howard League (1997) Pregnant and in Prison, Howard League, London
Howard League (1999) Babies behind Bars, Frances Crook, HLM, February 1999, Volume 17, No.1, Howard League, London
Richards, M. et al. (1995) Foreign nationals in English prisons: 1. Family ties and their maintenance. The Howard Journal Vol 34 No 2 May 1995, London
Department of Health, Inspection of Facilities for Mothers and Babies in Prison: Third Multi-Disciplinary Inspection by the Department of Health, November 1995 February 1996, London
Council of Europe, 2000, Mothers and babies in prison, Vis, Rudolf, United Kingdom, Socialist Group
Women Who Challenge Nacro Publications (tel 020 7582 6500)
All-Party Group on Maternity Out of sight: out of mind? The maternity
experiences of women seeking asylum.
18th March 2004 Committe Room 17, House of Commons, London. Susan Solanki