All Babies Count: spotlight on the criminal justice system - an unfair sentence How prison can impact on pregnancy and babies, and what can be done to help
Pregnancy and the first years of a baby’s life are an important time in giving a child a healthy and safe start in life. Mothers need support and care during pregnancy. Once born, babies need a safe and stimulating environment and healthy early relationship with their caregivers.
These needs are more difficult to meet when parents are in prison.
This NSPCC report, in collaboration with Barnardo's, looks at what we know about babies whose parents are in the criminal justice system. It identifies areas of promising practice around supporting prisoners who are parents. It includes recommendations for policy and practice to help ensure that babies affected by their parents’ offending get the best start in life.
This report is part of our All Babies Count spotlight series on issues that affect families from pregnancy through the first years of life.
Authors: Susan Galloway, Alice Haynes and Chris Cuthbert
- Parents with offending behaviour often have additional needs (such as drug and alcohol problems or mental health problems) which may impact upon their capacity to provide safe and healthy care for their babies.
- Having a parent in prison can disrupt family relationships, particularly the attachment relationship between parents and their babies.
- Imprisoning pregnant women and babies in Mother and Baby Units can impact upon the health and wellbeing of those babies.
- We don’t know exactly how many infants are affected by the criminal justice system. We estimate that around 11,800 0-2 year olds had a parent in prison in England and Wales in 2009, and that between 3,400 and 4,600 0-2 year olds in Scotland have a parent in prison each year.
- There is generally little awareness amongst people who work with children about how infants are affected by parental offending.
- There remain pressing questions about how best to meet the social, psychological and emotional needs of infants when their mothers are in prison.
- Prison provides an opportunity to offer parenting support and programmes (such as the NSPCC’s Baby Steps) that can help improve parenting capacity and skills.
- The issue of babies and children of offenders needs to be much more visible in policy making and in practice decisions around what happens to parents in the criminal justice system.
|Part 1: INSIGHT – What we know||13|
|Part 2: INNOVATION - Promising practice||27|
|Part 3: IMPACT - Improving policy and practice||36|
|Appendix A: England policy calls||40|
|Appendix B: Scotland policy calls||41|
|Appendix C: Developing understanding of how babies are affected by the criminal justice system: A research agenda||42|
Please cite as: Galloway, S., Haynes, A. and Cuthbert, C. (2014) An unfair sentence: All babies count: spotlight on the criminal justice system. London: NSPCC.
All Babies Count Spotlight series
Our Spotlight reports are a series of papers on the developmental importance of pregnancy and infancy published as part of the NSPCC’s All Babies Count campaign.
All Babies Count aims to raise awareness of the importance of pregnancy and the first years of life to a child’s development. The NSPCC is calling for better early support for parents during this period to ensure all babies are safe and able to thrive.
Each Spotlight focuses on a different issue that affects families with babies and looks at what can be done to support parents to keep their infants safe and give them the care they need.
All Babies Count: prevention and protection for vulnerable babies
Baby Steps in a prison context: parents' perspectives
All Babies Count: spotlight on perinatal mental health - prevention in mind
All Babies Count: spotlight on drugs and alcohol
All Babies Count: support for parents
All Babies Count: the Dad Project
Services for children, families and professionals
Minding the Baby
Child protection in the UK
Baby and toddler safety
Our Current Awareness Service for Practice, Policy And Research delivers free weekly email alerts to keep you up-to-date with all the latest safeguarding and child protection news.
CASPAR is currently being upgraded but you can still sign up by contacting our Information Service.
Follow us on Twitter and keep up-to-date with all the latest news in child protection.
We hold the UK's largest collection of child protection resources and the only UK database specialising in published material on child protection, child abuse and child neglect.
New in the Library
A free weekly email listing all of the new child protection publications added to our library collection.
New in the Library is currently being upgraded but you can still sign up by contacting our Information Service.
Helping you keep children safe
Read our guide for professionals on what we do and the ways we can work with you to protect children and prevent abuse and neglect.
Impact and evidence hub
Find out how we evaluate and research the impact we’re making in protecting children, get tips and tools for researchers and access resources.
Get expert training and consultancy
Sharing knowledge to keep children safe
Read our guide to NSPCC Knowledge and Information Services to find out how we can help you with child protection queries, support your research, and help you learn and develop.