This chapter provides insight into the current context and landscape surrounding pregnancy, new motherhood and criminal justice. It highlights the dangers and consequences of incarcerated pregnancy and forced separation from newborn babies as an imprisoned mother.
This chapter explores incarcerated and criminalised motherhood over the last century. This chapter will provide an overview of historical developments in relation to pregnancy and prison over the last century or so. It will reveal the extent to which pregnancy and motherhood in criminalised women has been influenced by patriarchy, inequality and discrimination. It will also make links between past attitudes and responses to women in the criminal justice system, and contemporary views and responses. In doing so it will explore the legacy of motherhood ideology and its relationship to patriarchy, how this intersects with judgement and attitudes towards criminalised mothers, and, importantly, how this additional layer of judgement affects mothers themselves.
This chapter brings the previous chapters into context and discusses the women in our research and their pre-prison experiences with reference to current policy, guidelines and practice in relation to pregnancy and criminalised women. The chapter, reflecting on the experiences of mothers in our research, will outline the context and processes mothers go through in terms of their arrest, sentencing and imprisonment, and will contrast the ideals of good practice and effective policy with the reality of what mothers in our studies described.
This chapter will reflect on the book chapters to provide a summary alongside the authors’ concluding thoughts and recommendations going forwards. The final word will be given over to Louise Powell who wishes to end this book with her own comment and wishes for the future.
This chapter will draw on the authors’ research to discuss the experiences of pregnant mothers in custody. It will discuss the women’s experiences of access to antenatal support, food, experiences of external appointments and birth as imprisoned mothers. It will detail in the mothers’ voices what it feels like to be pregnant in prison, and/or to live in a mother and baby unit, highlighting the fear and the shame that surrounds pregnant and new mothers in prison. The chapter will reveal and discuss the significance of the reactions of officers and the mothers’ relationships with each other, highlighting the importance and impact of both, and also of bad practice in prisons. The chapter will take a critical stance throughout but will centre the voices of the mothers and their experiences.
This chapter, again drawing on the authors’ research and centring the voices and experiences of mothers, will discuss the lived experiences of mothers post-release and will demonstrate the ongoing trauma from their experiences. It will reveal the enduring harm caused to mothers, and sometimes their children, of separation, birth trauma, prison birth and loss. It will examine the mothers’ own altered perceptions of themselves as mothers and the ‘shame’ they feel at having given birth or spent time pregnant in prison.
This chapter is co-authored by Samantha Harkness, Michelle Wright and Kirsty Kitchen; three members of the charity Birth Companions, which has specialised in supporting and advocating for pregnant women and new mothers in contact with the criminal justice system for more than 25 years. Samantha and Michelle are both members of the Birth Companions Lived Experience Team; a group of over 40 women who are committed to using their own experiences of the criminal justice, social services and maternity systems to drive improvements in the care of other pregnant women and mothers. Kirsty is head of policy and communications at the charity, working closely with the Lived Experience Team to influence policy and practice across these systems. The chapter offers a view of the needs and experiences of pregnant women and mothers of infants in prison from two women who have lived it, and the charity that supported them during that time and beyond, namely Birth Companions.
Incorporating the authentic voices and real-life experiences of women, this ground-breaking book focuses on pregnancy and new motherhood in UK prisons. The book delves critically and poignantly into the criminal justice system’s response to pregnant and new mothers, shedding light on the tragedies of stillborn babies and the deaths of traumatised mothers in prison.
Based on lived realities, it passionately argues the case for enhancing the experiences of pregnant and new mothers involved with the criminal justice system. Aiming to catalyse policy and practice, the book is key reading for criminology and midwifery students and researchers as well as policy makers and practitioners.
In Chapter Six, the book concludes by arguing for a broad approach to open justice that recognises the importance of public participation in a model of justice system accountability and does not wholly rely on the news media as a proxy for transparency.
The authors suggest implementing more nuanced and evidence-based approaches to open justice that respond to advances in digital technologies and, in doing so, also attempt to lessen systemic and individualistic harms, including stigmatisation. Recommendations centre on widening public interest court reporting, improving justice data availability and accountability, and increasing resources and investment in the facilitation of public access.
Such an approach prioritises public legal education and access to justice, as well as effective scrutiny of the criminal justice system. The authors contend that the practical application of open justice demands regular scrutiny and debate, to take account of changes in the way that society and the courts work. Overall, their work demonstrates how the principle can be effectively dissected, by attending to the practical realities of its application, and by testing its objectives through socio-legal research.
Chapter Two provides historical context on the way in which open justice and accountability have developed in England and Wales. It considers modes of accountability in the criminal process, public participation in the criminal courts, and its development in recent decades.
It looks at the place of open justice in a wider tradition of justice system accountability, sitting alongside and underpinning other important tools. As part of this exercise, the authors detail the main methods for contemporary observation of physical criminal court hearings and access to different information types, drawing attention to the main obstacles and gatekeepers.
They also explore the main theoretical rationales for the contemporary approach to open justice which, it is suggested, can be categorised as punitive (shaming), deterring, educational, scrutable (ensuring fairness and proper conduct). The chapter then critiques these various arguments, proposing that understandings of justice system accountability need to recognise their weaknesses and strengths.
The authors introduce one of their core arguments, that policy and law makers should prioritise informational transparency as a means of scrutiny and education, rather than as a means of an individual’s punishment and deterrence.