The tragic events outlined in the report today were entirely avoidable and the Ombudsman has stated that there were missed opportunities to identify that Louise Powell needed urgent medical attention in the hours leading up to her giving birth. We know from discussions with our women’s forum that it is unfortunately not uncommon for women’s health needs in prison to be overlooked, leading to crisis points.
The report notes that the most recent inspection of HMP Styal found that nearly all the women that arrived at the prison had significant needs, including mental health issues and problematic substance use, and experiences of trauma, abuse and domestic violence.
The majority of women in prison are serving sentences of 12 months or less. It is our view that these women’s needs are better served with well-funded, trauma-informed and personalised community interventions, and that prison often retraumatises women and does not address their needs or the drivers of offending.
This tragic case strengthens our view that the needs of women in contact with the criminal justice system are not effectively addressed in prison, and that health-driven, holistic solutions to reoffending should be firmly rooted in the community wherever possible.
Revolving Doors Agency and Birth Companions have published a joint research report contributing to a better understanding of the experiences and needs of women facing multiple disadvantage during pregnancy and birth.
This collection of essays explores the knots between poverty, trauma and multiple disadvantage. It suggests frameworks to help service providers, policymakers, researchers and people with lived experience make better sense of these knots and start to untangle them.
These essays allow us to find greater connection between our understandings of the structural, interpersonal and institutional layers. They lay the groundwork for approaches to multiple disadvantage that are more grounded in the reality of people’s lives. And they help us connect those lives to a wider vision of a fair and sustainable society.
We need to temporarily stop short prison sentences; limiting the rapid churn of people vulnerable to Covid-19 in and out of prison to keep the prison staff and prisoners safe.