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  • Author or Editor: Lucy Baldwin x
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This chapter extends a presentation given by the author during the 2019 Women, Family, Crime and Justice seminar series. This was a reflexive presentation incorporating both personal and professional reflection and experience. Exploring reflexivity and creative research through a personal and professional lens, the chapter alternates between the first person and the third person, where appropriate.

The chapter first sets out what is understood by feminist research, emphasising that it is more than simply research undertaken by researchers who consider themselves feminist, but research informed by broader feminist principles via its topic, design, process, analysis and researcher reflexivity. Critically, feminist research advocates for the presence and voice of participants, and the reflexivity of the researcher to be visible in the final products of research (Maynard and Purvis, 1994; Oakley, 2016).

Thereafter, there is a reflective discussion about my doctoral research (Baldwin, forthcoming) and research process, notably how mothers themselves assisted in shaping the research decisions, research tools and the methodology (for example, where the interviews took place). It then explores the researcher/research relationship and its significance.

The final section presents the author’s recent research project (jointly undertaken with Ben Raikes), which sought to generate knowledge and understanding about parental imprisonment. The project concluded with the production of a published collection of poetry.1 We posit that the collection constitutes a form of research that has produced a significant body of knowledge (see later discussion), and one which reveals much about the impact of parental imprisonment.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Sadly, despite over 30 years of feminists and criminologists providing evidence of the repeated failure of the criminal justice system (CJS) to respond appropriately to female law breakers, very little has actually changed. The female prison population has continued to rise in tandem with supposedly progressive gender responsive reforms, and stubbornly remains between 3,000–4,000 as of 2021 (Baldwin and Epstein, 2017). Following the publication of the recent Female Offender Strategy (Ministry of Justice, 2018), the female-focused Farmer Report (2019) and the Joint Human Rights Committee report on maternal imprisonment (UK Parliament, 2019), there exists a cautious optimism that positive change is afoot, albeit in a limited capacity. It remains to be seen if these successive publications and their recommendations will enjoy any greater success than Corston (2007). Corston, in her review of ‘vulnerable women in the criminal justice system’, made 43 valid and sensible recommendations, the majority of which were accepted by government. However, over a decade later very little progress has been made in terms of their implementation, with only one recommendation fully actioned (Women in Prison, 2017). Indeed, it could be argued that with the implementation (and failure) of the Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) agenda, women law breakers are in a worse position than ever. Despite existing international sentencing guidelines suggesting the contrary, pregnant women and mothers of dependent children continue to be imprisoned for non-violent offences, most often offences that are rooted in poverty or trauma, or both (Penal Reform International, n.d.).

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Drawing on original research from the Women, Family, Crime and Justice research network, this edited collection sheds new light on the challenges and experiences of women and families who encounter the criminal justice system in the UK.

Each contribution demonstrates how these groups are often ignored, oppressed and repeatedly victimised. The book addresses crucial issues including short-term imprisonment, trauma-specific interventions, schools supporting children affected by parental imprisonment and visibility and voice in research.

Bringing together contemporary knowledge from both research and practice, this ambitious volume offers valuable insights and practical recommendations for positive action and change.

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