• 16/08/2022
  • By binternet

In the past two years, two babies have died in British prisons<

Each year in the United Kingdom, it is estimated that around 600 women are pregnant in prison and that 100 babies are born behind bars.A problem raised by feminist associations.

The question of the conditions of imprisonment of pregnant women and mothers of infants is a topical debate in Great Britain.Feminist associations are currently organizing a petition to limit this kind of situation as much as possible.This approach denounces a lack of humanity and a discrepancy with regard to international standards, which are not new: between 2019 and 2021, two babies died in British prisons.

The rights to the health care of prisoners worldwide and in Great Britain

On an international level, the European Convention on Human Rights specifies the rights of citizens of signatory countries.Its article 8 addresses in particular the right to respect for privacy and family life, and article 14 formally prohibits discrimination in terms of human rights exercise.This is valid for gender, ethnicity, social origin or even status: prisoners (male as female) therefore have inalienable fundamental rights in the same way as the rest of the population.

In the United Kingdom nevertheless, the prison Act dating from 1952 does not specify at any time a legal obligation to provide health services to imprisoned persons, leaving a gray area as to the question of the treatment of British prisoners.In 2016, the NHS issued a report exposing its directives to improve healthcare services to the prison population within four years.

Pregnant women in prison: big forgotten by British law

This same NHS report does not mention impaired pregnant women, a disappointing forgetfulness in view of the international commitments of Great Britain.Indeed, Bangkok's rules concerning the treatment of prisoners and delinquents were voted unanimously by the 193 members of the United Nations in 2011.These rules specify the need to meet the specific needs of incarcerated women and their children: ""Penitentiary services must meet all the medical, physical and psychological needs of children living in prison with their mother.These children are not prisoners, they should not be treated as such "".This set of provisions approved internationally also induces a consideration of the status of pregnant women.

The measures taken by the British government with regard to pregnant prisoners or mothers of young children are succinct.It is explained that women can keep their baby during their first 18 months of life in a mother-child unit (MBU);If the detainee is already the mother of a child not exceeding this age, she can make a request to accompany him behind bars.The government's website specifies that 6 British prisons have these MBUs, out of the 12 prisons for women in the country.The conditions applied to children over a year and a half are extremely vague.The question suffers from a real legal vacuum, women representing only 4.1% of British detainees (data of 31/06/2021).

In July 2020, a government note ""Improvement of care for pregnant women and mothers in prison"" expressed several points.It was announced that the support allowed by the MBU would be extended to pregnant women and those separated from their young child, and that the number of imprisoned women and births in prison were to be collected and published for the first time.Currently, no public data still lists this information.Government wishes contrast with the situation denounced by feminist associations such as Level Up, Women in Prison, or Birth Companions.

The issues induced by the imprisonment of pregnant women and mothers

British associations in question report numerous dysfunctions in the country's penitentiary system.According to them, prison is not a safe place for a pregnant woman or the mother of a child in the lower age, and the consequences of this kind of situation can be dramatic in the long term.Doctor Laura Abbott explains that: ""My research revealed that cell births were not uncommon and that women were giving birth to prison, without the help of qualified midwives and in non-sterile environmentsand inappropriate, much more often than they should.There is no midwife or doctor on duty in prisons during the night, so that women who give birth do not benefit from an appropriate medical assessment and care.This situation is very worrying and must be treated urgently, so that women and babies are protected."".In the United Kingdom, one in ten women giving birth during her prison sentence before having been able to reach the hospital.

The lack of prenatal and postnatal care is also critical in prison, denounce the associations.Studies from Queen Mary University in London provide significant examples: an inmate has complained of contractions, and has received paracetamol and a cup of tea before being returned to his cell.Another, expressing the same complaint, ended up giving birth alone in his cell of a premature baby.The consequences of these dysfunctions have already made the headlines: recently, two infants died in prisons, in Bronzefield in 2019 and in Styal in 2020.

The birth of a child behind bars and the separation of his mother during his first months are, although he arrives, traumatic events for the baby as for the mother. ""La majorité des femmes en prison sont victimes de violences domestiques.The isolation of the prison system only traumatizes these women. La prison provoque un stress toxique pour la mère et l'enfant, et même de courtes peines peuvent avoir un impact à vie"", selon Seyi Falodun-Liburd, la co-directrice de Level Up.

Many solutions offered

Currently, a movement has been initiated by Level Up, Birth Companions and Women in Prison, in partnership with midwives, academics and women who have been pregnant in prison.The opening of this debate allowed the emergence of a petition asking to modify the imprisonment laws so that pregnant women and new mothers stop, as much as possible, to be imprisoned.The judges should thus consider the health of these people and their baby, to avoid at all costs the prison sentence.To date, 6,979 people have signed this petition.

Other people have proposed legal solutions aimed at solving this problem.The first step would be to amend the prison Act in order to mention the need for equality of health care for prisoners.Bangkok rules could also be ratified in the domestic legal framework, leading to their systematic application.