United Kingdom

‘Child’s birthday party’ protest outside prison to demonstrate against jailing pregnant women and new mothers


Protesters gathered outside a UK prison to call for an end to the imprisonment of pregnant women and new mothers.

Activists, former inmates and mothers with their children held a demonstration outside HMP Bronzefield in Surrey on Saturday afternoon – the third anniversary of a newborn baby’s death at the prison.

The demonstration on Saturday was set up like a child’s birthday party – with picnic rugs, a musician playing the guitar, children dancing and people singing nursery rhymes.

The group also erected banners and held signs saying “No births behind bars” and “Pregnant women don’t belong in prison”.

It comes as the latest in a sequence of public protests over mothers in prison, organised by campaign groups No Births Behind Bars and Level Up.

Janey Starling, co-director of Level Up, said the demonstration was “joyful” and “everything women in prison should be experiencing”.

Ms Starling said that despite the death of two babies in prison in the last three years, “very little has changed”.

“We are here today to demand the end of imprisonment of pregnant women,” she said.

“What we are calling for are alternatives in the community that support women.”

Handout photo dated 24/09/22 of No Babies Behind Bars campaign group staging a protest outside of HMP Bronzefield Prison in Ashford, Surrey. Issue date: Saturday September 24, 2022.

Among those protesting outside the prison was Anna Harley, 36, who gave birth while she was remanded in custody ahead of her sentencing.

She said she was granted bail for three months after the birth of her son.

But when she was ultimately sentenced to a prison term, it took six weeks of dealing with bureaucracy to secure a place on a mother and baby unit so she could be reunited with her child, she said.

The 36-year-old said the experience is “still affecting me”, adding: “I have been home five years but still to this day, it was the worst time of my life.”

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