In the UK, numbers of pregnant women are not routinely collated, but estimations suggest that 6-7% of the female prison population are at varying stages of pregnancy and approximately 100 babies are born to incarcerated women each year. There are no exact data of the numbers of newborn babies removed from their mother at or soon after birth. There are six Mother and Baby Units (MBU) in the 12 women’s UK prisons in the UK, currently, all underutilised. Accounts from qualitative research of women being mandatorily separated from their new-born babies demonstrate a deep sense of loss, yet surprisingly little research has examined experiences of the process of separating mothers from their babies. The study is the first project to link the professions of social work, Health Visiting, midwifery and criminal justice staff, with the experiences of women who have been in prison at the heart of the research.
This project is important due to compulsory separations posing a substantial risk to women’s mental health. It will build upon the evidence base and previous research into imprisoned pregnant women’s experiences. It will contribute original and robust evidence to health, criminal justice and social care service initiatives concerned with improving support, information and experiences of women.
The aims of the study is to:
- Explore the effects of mandatory separation of imprisoned women from their babies through the lens of midwifery, social work, health visiting and criminal justice professionals.
- Bring together health, social care and prison professionals to develop collaborations and discussions to propose new guidance, actively supporting women who are being separated from their babies.
- Progress an empirically grounded conceptual framework for understanding the sociology of loss through mandatory separation of babies from their mothers, specifically those who are involved in the CJS, adding to the overall sociology of loss and grief.
This project will comprise qualitative semi-structured interviews of the key professionals involved with pregnant women who have Criminal Justice System (CJS) involvement.
Women who have been or who are in the process of being separated from their babies will be offered an in-depth face-to-face interview. The charity, Birth Companions and their Lived Experience Team will act as consultants to the project helping with recruitment, introductions, advising on participatory information, interview questions and consent forms. Non-participant observation of the processes involved will take place.
The study is the first project to link the professions of social work, Health Visiting, midwifery and criminal justice staff, with the experiences of women who have been in prison at the heart of the research. Recommendations arising from this research has the potential to build upon and further improve understanding of women’s experiences and the procedures involved in removal of new-borns from their imprisoned mothers. The project will benefit academic and health research, notably the sociology of health and illness, criminology, midwifery, health visiting and social work.
Who is involved?
Papers/resources associated with this project
Laura Abbott, firstname.lastname@example.org