Skip to main content

Black and white image showing a pregnant abdomen cradled with a pair of hands

A new book, co-authored by Dr Lucy Baldwin, an Honorary Fellow in our Department of Sociology, is calling on the UK justice system to stop sending pregnant women to prison, or risk further tragedies for mothers and babies.

Better justice for pregnant women

The book is the first to examine pregnancy and new motherhood in UK prisons and has been written following the high-profile deaths of two babies after their mothers gave birth in UK prisons.

Dr Baldwin and her co-author Dr Laura Abbott from the University of Hertfordshire are calling for imprisonment of pregnant women to be a last resort.

Instead, the duo argues there are opportunities for prisons, social workers and magistrates to work together to provide better justice for pregnant women.

They believe this starts with all agencies having a clearer understanding of what it is like to be pregnant in prison.

Both authors have hands-on experience in the field, Baldwin as a qualified social worker and probation officer and Abbott as a midwife (Abbott).   

Recommendations for UK prisons

Their book, which includes first-hand accounts from women with experience of pregnancy in prison, puts forward a number of recommendations for how pregnancy can be better managed in prison, including;

  • Dedicated prison space/wing for pregnant women with enhanced support and training;
  • Changes to sentencing guidelines, avoiding maternal imprisonment if at all possible;
  • Increased funding for community-based alternatives to prison;
  • Better training for social workers, probation officers, midwives and prison staff on the experience of pregnancy in prison and the alternatives, including Mother and Baby Units.
  • Work to increase positive outcomes for applications for mothers to be housed in Mother and Baby Units and;
  • Inclusion of midwifery and pregnancy care in prison inspection criteria.

Prison trials

Their recommendations draw on their own extensive research and trials Dr Baldwin has developed with Sodexo, operators of His Majesty’s Prison Peterborough, which involved the establishment of a dedicated pregnancy wing, and enhanced staff training and prisoner support.

Dr Baldwin also worked with Sodexo to progress the facilitation of women prisoners to give birth on release on temporary license – something the authors would like to see rolled out across all female prisons.

Find out more:

Sociology at Durham:

Our Department of Sociology is ranked 1st in the UK for Criminology and 3rd in the UK for Sociology in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024. 

In our rapidly changing global environment, there has never been a more important time to look at the world through a social lens and engage in theoretically-driven learning that makes a difference.

Feeling inspired? Visit our Sociology webpages to learn more about studying with us. 

Durham University is a top 100 world university. In the QS World University Rankings 2024, we were ranked 78th globally.