Letter: Babies in prison

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Sir: On page 2 (24 November), you quote a Prison Service spokesman saying that mothers in prison were under no illusions that if they were involved in violent incidents their babies would be removed. Four pages later, you quote the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: "The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the state". Not, it seems, in British prisons.

In almost every other stratum of society it is now recognised that the only grounds for removing a child from its mother is when the mother poses a danger to the child from which it cannot be sheltered by outside supervision. Yet the prison service is using the removal of very young babies as an instrument of punishment for their mothers.

Recently delivered mothers in ideal environments are under a great deal of stress. Those who are in prison must be under even more stress and it is understandable that tempers flare. However, the solution must be to separate the women involved in these incidents from each other - not from their babies. By choosing the latter course, we as a society must be causing untold suffering to both the mother and, which should concern us even more, to the babies themselves.


Cheadle Hulme, Cheshire