We are devastated to hear the reports of another baby dying in prison, just nine months after the tragedy in HMP Bronzefield. Our thoughts are with the mother and the wider family.
The details of this situation are still unclear, although it is deeply concerning to hear that this woman complained of severe stomach pains over several days and was only given paracetamol. Responsiveness to women’s health concerns is a major issue in the prison system, and a failure to act swiftly and appropriately puts lives at risk.
The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman must now conduct another full investigation, building on their inquiry into the Bronzefield case, the findings of which are yet to be shared. Both investigations should take account of the systemic risks prison custody poses to the health and safety of women and their babies, with findings made public as soon as possible. These should be responded to fully and urgently by the Ministry of Justice and Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service to ensure that this is the last baby that dies in our broken prison system.
This latest tragedy comes as the government’s own plans to release pregnant women in light of the pandemic prove ineffective, and the much-lauded Female Offender Strategy, emphasising alternatives to prison, remains a vision rather than a reality. This cannot go on. We demand an immediate end to the use of custody for women in all but the most exceptional of circumstances.