Maternity care reform in English prisons: a century of unanswered concerns

Rachel Bennett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Should not future citizens who are born to pregnant women in prison be offered the same care as all other babies? Should pregnant women even be imprisoned? These are questions that have faced the state since the inception of the modern prison system in the nineteenth century.
A landmark enquiry into health care provisions in Holloway in 1919 made the specific needs of pregnant women in prison more visible than they had ever been before.
However, one hundred years later, pregnant women remain subject to inconsistent treatment and variable maternity care. Issues raised by the 1919 enquiry, including the conditions in which they are imprisoned and their access to specially trained maternity staff before, during and after the birth of their babies, remain relevant today in an underfunded criminal justice system.
The basic requirement that all babies — and therefore all pregnant women — in prison should receive high quality maternity care on a consistent basis remains unmet in many ways. The current calls for the development of a Prison Service Order, which pays heed to the recommendations of the Birth Charter developed by the voluntary body, Birth Companions, could and should be implemented in full.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHistory & Policy
Publication statusPublished - 8 Mar 2019

Bibliographical note

Policy paper


Dive into the research topics of 'Maternity care reform in English prisons: a century of unanswered concerns'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this