An exploratory study of Birth Companions' perinatal support to women during and after release from prisons in England during the COVID-19 pandemic, carried out by researchers at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic Birth Companions, with the support of other women’s organisations working in the criminal justice sector, called for the release of pregnant women and mothers of infants from prison in light of the risks posed to these women by the spread of the virus in carceral settings. On 31 March 2020, the Ministry of Justice and Her Majesty’s Prisons and Probation Service (HMPPS) made the decision to prioritise pregnant women and mothers living with their babies on MBUs for early release. In April 2020 Birth Companions received a funding award from NHS England’s Liaison and Diversion (L&D) Programme to continue and extend support for pregnant women and new mothers before, during and after release from prison during the COVID-19 pandemic. This service included support for women who had completed their custodial sentence as well as those on the early release scheme, across all of the 12 women’s prisons in England. The service ran until the end of December 2020.
By Professor Gill Thomson, University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).