Born in prison

Maybe if you’re born is a prison you might end up being saviour of the world. Maybe you won’t. A report says that now, under New Labour, around 4 children are born each week to women in our prisons. Recommendations were that this should only happen in “exceptional circumstances”.
I visited a young woman on remand in a young offenders’ institution. It was most certainly a prison. Sure they tried to ensure she developed her education and parenting skills, but the environment was extremely harsh. As a visitor you had to surrender the complete contents of your pockets before you were allowed in. And you were securely locked in. This young women had got in with the wrong crowd, but the reason for making her give birth in such a setting was certainly not “exceptional.” She did very well, except she refused to listen to those who insisted she should not take the child into her bed. This is something much frowned upon, but as far as I know is not uncommon. Anyway I knew the reason why she did this. She had a child before that was taken into care. The child died while in “care”. She found this out when she overheard someone speaking about it while in court. She quickly arranged to see the child’s body and noticed serious burn marks on the legs.
When she left prison she went to a hostel for mothers and children. Many of those there were people with learning difficulties and had difficulties just coping with their children. The young woman did not fit in. She stayed out continually, the placement was ended and the child was taken into care. Like her mother she was in care and now the third generation. When, I asked continually when representing her at meetings with professionals, would this cycle end? And where did she go to when she was out without permission? She was visiting the grave of her first born.

The expensive system fails to support vulnerable individuals, far from it. There is a disincentive for the young mother to engage. The placement this young person was required to take up on leaving prison set her up to fail, the bureaucratic nightmare ensure she was driven back into her own world to repeat what had happened before.

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