Pregnant prisoners shouldn’t be treated this way

The government is failing to increase the number of Mother and Baby Units, despite a planned increase of 500 places in women’s prisons. In answer to my written question I discovered that they keep no records of how many women and trans men are pregnant in Britain’s jails, nor do they have any idea of how many pregnant prisoners in individual facilities.

The inadequacy of the prison service in dealing with pregnant women and trans men is highlighted by the awful tragedy that befell the 18 year old woman inmate who lost her baby at HMP Bronzefield. The woman was on remand and had not even been found guilty of anything at the time of the birth happening. The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman report found a series of failings in the teenager’s treatment.

In 2017-18, unpublished findings by the Nuffield Trust suggest that one in 10 of the pregnant prisoners gave birth in cells or ambulances.

I have little confidence that such a tragedy won’t happen again as the pressures on the prison service increase, but the facilities on offer to pregnant prisoners do not.

My written question to HMG: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what estimate they have made, if any, of how many additional spaces will need to be provided in Mother and Baby Units as part of the work to build 500 new places for (1) women, and (2) trans men, in prison.

Baroness Scott of Bybrook Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) replied for HMG: The programme to deliver up to 500 additional prison places in the women’s estate does not include delivering additional places in Mother and Baby Units. The current provision provided for Mother and Baby Units is forecast to continue to be sufficient with the increase in prison places.

Our new accommodation design supports transgender needs as required by legislation and prison policy. This includes ensuring that there are adequate areas that support the disclosing of information and private conversations. Single-cell occupancy will also support privacy and dignity, with in-cell sanitation facilities included in designs.