Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Babies behind bars revisited
  1. D Black1,
  2. H Payne2,
  3. R Lansdown3,
  4. A Gregoire4
  1. 1Hon. Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Traumatic Stress Clinic, London and Royal Free Hospital, London, UK
  2. 2Consultant Paediatrician, Ystrad Mynach Hospital, Caerphilly; Senior Lecturer in Child Health, University of Wales College of Medicine, Heath Park, Cardiff CF14 4XN, UK
  3. 3Chartered Educational and Clinical Child Psychologist, lately Great Ormond St Hospital for Children, London, UK
  4. 4Consultant/Hon. Senior Lecturer in Perinatal Psychiatry, Southampton, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr H Payne
    Consultant Paediatrician, Ystrad Mynach Hospital, Caerphilly, Senior Lecturer in Child Health, University of Wales College of Medicine, Heath Park, Cardiff CF14 4XN, UK; payneeh{at}

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

Mother and baby units in prisons in the UK, 2004

The UK has the highest rate of female imprisonment in the European Union as at March 2004, and the steepest rate of increase.1 It was estimated in March 2003 that 32 000 children per year (age under 16 years) are separated from their mother due to her imprisonment,2 a figure which includes 2880 children under 18 months of age. There is currently a facility for only 90 children under 18 months old to remain with their mother in prison at present in England and Wales, although by spring 2005 the capacity will have increased to 114.3 The budget for the Prison Medical Service was transferred to the NHS from the Home Office on 1 April 2003 with a plan to transfer service delivery and management by 2008.4 As this offers an opportunity to reconfigure commissioning and services for children (approximately 0.2% of the child population of the UK) affected by maternal imprisonment, especially children who may suffer from being separated from their imprisoned mothers, we wish to initiate a discussion among colleagues in paediatrics, general psychiatry, child psychiatry, and psychology, regarding issues pertaining to children with imprisoned mothers. We wish to revisit the review of “babies behind bars” of 19925 and explore the statistical trends, demographic influences, and service implications, and examine the implications of set age limits for the residence of children in prison mother and baby units (MBUs).6


The number of women remanded in custody or receiving custodial sentences in England and Wales is increasing. In 1993 the point prevalence of women in prison was 1580, and in March 2004 it was 4589, an increase of nearly 300% in 11 years,7 and the highest rate in the European Union as it …

View Full Text


  • Competing interests: Dora Black was a member of the HM Prison Service Review Committee that produced “Report of a Review of Principles, Policies and Procedures on Mothers and Babies/Children in Prison, July 1999”