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Pregnancy in prison | New Economics Foundation

Pregnant women are forced to give birth in prison, affecting their own and their children’s life chances. Jenny Starling explains why women should not be incarcerated during pregnancy.

This is an article in the sixth issue of “New Economic Magazine”.you can Find the full issue here.

Prison is never the best start in a child’s life. This should be obvious to anyone. However, in the past year, 50 women gave birth in prison. In recent years, the deaths of two infants in prisons have drawn public attention to the dangers of incarcerating pregnant women. However, the issues extend far beyond childbirth. Imprisoning mothers causes generational harm.

Anita* became pregnant in prison and gave birth to her son while in custody, before being transferred to the prison’s Mother and Baby Unit (MBU), where the mother could live with her baby for up to 18 months. Although Anita was happy that she was not separated from her son, she told me: NumberI don’t think the judges fully realize what they are doing when they send moms to MBU. Don’t they know they are still in jail? “

In prison, the guards completely ignored Anita as a mother: NumberThe guards don’t respect you and you’re always on thin ice. When my child was sick and I wanted to make a doctor’s appointment, a guard told me he didn’t think it was necessary. This is my child, but as his mother, I can’t even make that decision. I would feel more like a mother if I stayed in the community. But in prison, all this is taken away. It made me doubt my abilities as a mother for a long time. “

Anita’s experience is far from unique. Dr Lucy Baldwin’s research on maternal incarceration documents the deeply painful impact that a lack of recognition of motherhood can have on women.

this Most women go to jail for short sentences, for things like shoplifting. However, when it comes to child development, even short sentences can have lifelong effects. That’s something Anita worries about, given that her son’s ADHD diagnosis has yet to be confirmed.

I’m concerned about the connection between his behavior and the fact that I’m putting him in jail,” she said. NumberBut no one tells you this. “

I’m concerned about the connection between his behavior and the fact that I’m putting him in jail,” she said. NumberBut no one tells you this. “

Rose*, worries about this too. She was jailed while pregnant and, like Anita, gave birth to the child and lived with the child in an MBU: NumberI am convinced that the adverse effects of prison on my son will continue for the rest of his life. He had been struggling with behavioral issues, which I’m sure were caused by the stress I experienced in prison. My son is in pain right now because I was put there. ”

When Rose was sent to prison, she was also separated from her two other children. One of them, who was 13 at the time, was bullied at school. NumberShe was really struggling with the situation,” Ross said. NumberShe was at such a vulnerable age and it hit her really hard. All the stress of everything that happened to me affected my children as well. This makes me feel so guilty and angry. ”

Article 2 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child stipulates that children have NumberThe right not to be discriminated against or punished for anything their parents do”. Yet courts frequently violate this provision and send pregnant women and mothers to prison.

although Courts should consider the impact of parents’ imprisonment This is not always the case with dependent children. The consequences are devastating. Discovered by Shona Minson, Ph.D. Mother’s experience in prison Not only does it have a negative impact on the relationship between the child and the mother NumberCan impact every aspect of their lives, including their education, health and well-being.

estimate Maternal incarceration affects 17,000 children every year in England and Wales. 95% of children are forced to leave their homes because their mothers are imprisoned, leaving them without adult care.

Anita and Ross were both involved. Level Up campaign to end the incarceration of pregnant womenboth believed mothers who were involved in the criminal justice system would receive better support from the community.

Ross wants to go to court NumberLook at the reasons women are offended, see these women as mothers, and see what you can do to support them. “

Her hunch is backed up by government research. 2007 review Poverty, domestic violence, mental illness and substance abuse were found to be key factors in why women end up in prison.It is recommended to invest in community Center Supporting women at risk of crime.Professional charities women in prison explained that when a woman enters prison, she often NumberHaving been let down by state services and systems long before this. ”

The generational harm that prisons inflict on pregnant women, mothers and children is clear.

and Mothers hold breastfeeding protest outside Ministry of Justiceand Health experts write to sentencing board In order to demand change, the justice system is under pressure to change its practices.

Until governments invest in alternatives that support women, prisons will continue to cause preventable trauma to mothers and their children. As Anita summarizes: NumberWhat good does putting me in jail do? In addition to disrupting my mental health, leaving me feeling guilty for the rest of my life, and causing my son to suffer as well. “

*Names have been changed to protect identity.

Janey Starling is an award-winning feminist activist and co-director of UK gender justice campaign group Level Up, which calls for an end to the incarceration of pregnant women.

Picture: iStock

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