Pregnant women suffer behind bars

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The Independent Online
The imprisonment of pregnant women should be outlawed, a penal affairs group claims today, in a report which condemns the conditions of inmates.

A survey by the Howard League of Britain's 15 designated women's prisons says found there were 60 pregnant inmates, approximately 3 per cent of the total female jail population.

The League is calling for a drastic improvement in conditions for these women, to ensure they receive a similar quality of care as those in the community. Ultimately, the group is seeking a total ban on prison sentences for pregnant female offenders.

It is claimed that standards of care for pregnant women while incarcerated are inadequate, with a severe shortage of places in mother and baby units (MBUs).

Expectant mothers do not necessarily have access to special foodstuffs, although extra milk is provided. While pregnant prisoners are not expected to undertake heavy duties, there is little provision for exercise.

As a result of the reported poor conditions, some female prisoners are failing to reveal their pregnancies. One woman in Risely Prison recently gave birth in her cell, after successfully hiding her pregnancy for more than three months.

Louise Hancock