We welcome the statements made by the Secretary of State for Justice Robert Buckland to the Justice Committee yesterday (24 March 2020), and are hopeful that, if we maintain the pressure, plans to release pregnant women and those on Mother and Baby Units from prison may be announced in the coming days.
We’re now working closely with our friends at Women in Prison and other charities and women’s centres across the country, as well as with Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service, the Ministry of Justice and NHS England, to ensure that if women are released, they will be supported before, during and after that release.
The shift from prison to the community is a difficult and risky time for many women, and is even more so now given the threat posed by Covid-19, and the extent of the measures now in place across the country. So it’s crucial that every woman is helped to connect with the maternity services and wider physical and mental health services crucial to keeping her and her baby safe now and in the months ahead.
For example, women will need to be given resource packs when they leave the prison gates, containing detailed information on Covid-19 and the continuation of their care in the community, as well as practical items so they have the essentials they need for the immediate days. If they don’t have a fully charged mobile phone with ample credit, an appropriate discharge grant, basic food and healthcare supplies, and safe transport to wherever they need to go, they will be forced to use public transport and visit several shops in the hours after they leave prison, exposing them and others to the risk of Covid-19.
All of us – the prison and probation services, local authorities, the NHS, and the voluntary sector - need to work together to ensure a considered, coordinated and yet swift effort to move these women and babies to a place of safety, from where they can receive the services they require now and in the weeks and months to come.
We are stronger together.