Pregnant women and young mothers are to be released from prison as a response to concerns over the spread of the coronavirus outbreak in jails. According to the Ministry of Justice and Prisons Service, prison governors will be able to grant release to women prisoners, including those in mother and baby units, on temporary licence once they pass a risk assessment and suitable accommodation is found.
According to the MoJ as of yesterday 5PM, 65 prisoners have now tested positive for coronavirus in England and Wales across 23 prisons; as well as 18 prison staff and four prison escort staff. The total number had doubled since Friday when 27 prisoners were confirmed to have tested positive. It has also been reported that 3,500 employees, representing about a tenth of the workforce, are currently in self-isolation. Two prisoners have now died having contracted the virus.
‘We have already taken extraordinary measures to protect prisoners and the public over the last few weeks, but it’s clear now that we must temporarily release pregnant woman and those with small babies with them inside prison,’ commented Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary Robert Buckland. ‘Governors can now temporarily release pregnant prisoners so that they can stay at home and reduce social contact like all other expectant mothers have been advised to do.’Minister are also considering plans to turn some military barracks into temporary prisons in a bid to ease overcrowding in jails but no decisions have yet been made.’