Almost two dozen women prisoners pregnant while in custody this year

First time prison service releases figures about number of pregnant women in custody

 Minister for Justice  Charlie Flanagan said figures show that 21 pregnant women were also in custody in both 2017 and 2018 across the two prisons. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said figures show that 21 pregnant women were also in custody in both 2017 and 2018 across the two prisons. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

 

A total of 23 pregnant women have been in custody in the country’s two female prisons so far this year, new figures have revealed.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has confirmed that 19 pregnant women were in custody in the Dóchas Centre in Dublin – the female prison located within the Mountjoy Prison campus – and four pregnant women were in Limerick Prison.

It is the first time the Irish Prison Service has released figures about the number of pregnant women in custody as it previously believed that the publication of such data would have breached patient confidentiality.

However, Mr Flanagan said the IPS was now satisfied that the disclosure of such information would not breach data protection or patient confidentiality rules.

Figures show that 21 pregnant women were also in custody in both 2017 and 2018 across the two prisons.

In reply to a parliamentary question from Independent TD Tommy Broughan, Mr Flanagan also revealed that since 2016, 10 women had given birth while in custody.

Mr Flanagan stressed that expectant mothers were always facilitated to have their children born in hospital.

“No babies have been born within the confines of a prison,” he added.

Mr Flanagan said he was advised by IPS officials that the level of maternity care provided to women in custody was “comparable to that available to women in the community”.

The Minister said it was provided on a shared care arrangement between the maternity hospital to which the patient was referred and the healthcare team in either the Dóchas Centre or Limerick Prison.

He confirmed the Dóchas Centre has a mother and baby unit to which all expectant mothers from both female prisons are transferred during their last trimester.

The Minister said all women stayed in the unit as long as their baby remained with them.

Prison rules allow for a child to remain in the care of his or her mother in prison until the age of 12 months.

Mr Flanagan said there were currently no babies living within the unit.

The latest figures show 160 female prisoners were in custody in July – 124 in the Dóchas Centre and 36 in Limerick Prison.