A report by the Observer has revealed the shocking rates of stillbirths, low birth weights and other complications experienced by women who give birth during a prison sentence.
The data, obtained through Freedom of Information requests, reveals that babies born to women in prison are seven times more likely to be stillborn than in the general population. This is a deterioration from the previous set of data which indicated stillbirths among female prisoners were five times more likely.
According to the report, babies born to women in prison were also almost twice as likely to require specialist support in a neo-natal unit, and almost twice as likely to have a low birth weight compared to national averages.
The statistics, which relate to the years 2021-22, show that during this period 50 women gave birth while serving a prison sentence. Out of these, 47 gave birth in hospital while three were either on the prison estate or in transit to the hospital. This comes as two babies have died soon after birth on the prison estate in recent years.
Campaigners, such as the group No Birth Behind Bars which held a protest outside the Royal Courts of Justice last week, have long called for an end to imprisoning pregnant women. The feminist campaign group, Level Up, want the government to change sentencing guidelines, as there is currently no statutory duty for judges to take pregnancy or parenthood into consideration.
Research undertaken earlier this year revealed of most of the pregnant women currently in prison in England were their because they had been recalled by the probation service. Some of the breaches women were returned to prison for included missing probation appointments, changing their address and shoplifting. In some cases, women were sent to prison as late as 36 weeks into their pregnancy.