Police investigates baby’s death at privately-run prison

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Police investigates baby’s death at privately-run prison

HMP/YOI Portland, Dorset. Andy Aitchison ©prisonimage.org

The death of a baby at HMP Bronzefield, the largest female prison in Europe, is being investigated by the police. The mother gave birth alone in her cell on the night of September 27th.

According to the Guardian, the mother was known to be at an advanced stage of pregnancy, but was still unsupervised and without medical support during labour and birth.

A report published last year by Dr Laura Abbott, a specialist midwife and senior lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire, described the poor condition in which births occur in three unnamed English prisons. Prison nursing staff are not often trained to know when a woman is in labour, nor to cope with emergency deliveries if they cannot get the woman to hospital in time.

Four women have died at the same prison since July 2016. In the case of inmate Natasha Chin, an inquest jury found that neglect and systemic failures at the prison contributed to her death. HMP Bronzefield is operated by Sodexo Justice Services and it holds more than 500 inmates, being the largest female prison in Europe.

About 600 pregnant women are held in prisons in England and Wales every year and around 100 births are also recorded annually. Women made up about 5% of the prison population in 2018, the vast majority, 82%, sentenced for non-violent offences.