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UK News Coronavirus: Pregnant prisoners 'set to be released early' over fears of Covid-19 spreading through jails

19:16  30 march  2020
19:16  30 march  2020 Source:   inews.co.uk

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a person standing in front of a sign © Provided by The i

Pregnant women currently serving prison sentences or on remand could be released early to protect them and their unborn children from contracting Covid-19, government sources have said.

a bird sitting on top of a building © Provided by The i

Coronavirus infections are spreading through prisons, with more than 27 confirmed cases across 14 prisons and at least two deaths.

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Earlier this month the chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, announced pregnant women were being added to the list of people with a raised risk from Covid-19, prompting calls from campaigners to protect hundreds of women currently in UK jails, as well as new mothers nursing their babies in special units connected to the prisons.

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A government source said on Monday that ministers were “actively looking” at early release of pregnant women, with measures to be announced shortly.

Vulnerable inmates

A government source said on Monday that ministers were 'actively looking' at early release of pregnant women (Photo: Ian Waldie/Getty)

Ministers are also examining the early release of other vulnerable prisoners, such as those with long-term health conditions and the elderly.

Although the Government has so far not given further details, any new measures are likely to include the freed inmates being released on licence, under conditions.

Last week England’s deputy chief medical officer, Dr Jenny Harries, said prisons were among a number of “high risk” establishments, while the Robert Buckland, the Justice Secretary, said the risk of the virus in the prison population was “acute”.

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The campaign group Birth Companions has called for pregnant women to be released early while the coronavirus outbreak rages.

In the wider population, pregnant women have been advised to take extra care with social distancing measures and keep contact to a minimum, although they are not in the highest-risk group of people who have been told to undergo 12-week “shielding”.

Jeopardy

Last week, Naomi Delap of Birth Companions said the coronavirus crisis was putting “more lives in jeopardy” because prison is “the wrong place to care for pregnant women, new mothers and babies”.

According to latest figures, there were 47 pregnant women in jails in England and Wales in November 2019, although this does not include those on remand who are awaiting trial.

The real total could be in the hundreds once this is taken into account. Six prisons in England and Wales have mother and baby units.

Outbreak risks deaths on ‘unprecedented scale’ in prisons, say campaigners .
The Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prison Reform Trust called for Justice Secretary Robert Buckland to take action.The Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prison Reform Trust added to pressure calls for the Justice Secretary Robert Buckland to take action in an open letter.

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