Serious failings lead to newborn's death in 12-hour lone prison birth
The deceased baby, named Aisha, was born to an 18-year-old inmate, Rianna Cleary, who was awaiting a sentence for a robbery charge.
A newborn baby's death in a cell at HMP Bronzefield, the largest women's prison in Europe, was attributed to severe systemic failures, according to the coroner's conclusion.
The baby, named Aisha, was born to an 18-year-old inmate, Rianna Cleary, who was awaiting sentence for a robbery charge. Despite Cleary's pleas for help during labor, she was left alone in her cell for 12 hours and had to manage the delivery herself, including cutting the umbilical cord.
In a heart-wrenching testimony presented in court, Cleary delivered a profoundly impactful statement that left the courtroom deeply moved, describing going into labor alone as “the worst and most terrifying and degrading experience of my life.”
She said: “I didn’t know when I was due to give birth. I was in really serious pain. I went to the buzzer and asked for a nurse or an ambulance twice.” Cleary passed out, and when she woke up, she had given birth.
“The cord was still attached. The placenta was on the floor. I bit the cord and tied it and put the placenta in the bin. I sat there holding her,” she added.
In her statement, Cleary raised doubts about whether she had been so severely let down due to being a young black woman. "I wondered at that time if I was being treated differently from [other women in prison] because of my race, because I was young, or because of my past,” she said.
The cause of Aisha's death remains uncertain, whether she was born alive and passed away shortly after or was stillborn. The investigation exposed significant inadequacies in both the prison's handling and the healthcare provided by Ashford and St Peter's Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
Cleary's troubled background of childhood trauma and vulnerabilities highlights the need for reconsidering the imprisonment of pregnant women. This tragic incident emphasizes the urgency for enhanced care and support for vulnerable inmates in custody.
In short, the tragic death of a baby during a 12-hour lone prison birth has exposed glaring systemic failures within the UK prison system.
The case has raised serious concerns about the treatment and care of pregnant women in custody, and has highlighted a lack of effective planning and response by prison authorities to ensure the safety and well-being of pregnant inmates.
Moreover, the failure of the midwifery and obstetrics team at the hospital to provide maternity care has come under scrutiny, with the absence of reliable guidance and an appropriate birth plan being identified as contributing factors.
Cleary's questioning of whether her race and age played a role in the inadequate support she received has also drawn attention to the potential racial disparities within the prison system. This heartbreaking event underscores the urgent need for comprehensive reforms to ensure the safety and dignity of pregnant women in prisons and to address systemic issues that jeopardize the well-being of vulnerable inmates in the UK.
UK police reveals 1,000 rapes since 2010 occurred in prisons: Report
According to recent exclusive data obtained by The Observer in May from police in England and Wales, almost 1,000 rapes have been reported to have occurred in prisons since 2010, and 2,336 sexual assaults were reported during the same time, as experts warn that the real numbers for both crimes may be far higher since some go unreported.
Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, in response to the investigation, complained about “minimal research – and a worrying lack of coherent and consistently applied policies – in relation to consensual and coercive sex behind bars."
This comes amid increasing worry about prison safety - both for guards and prisoners. Overcrowding, lack of staff, and budget cuts have been triggered by more than 10 years of austerity measures from successive Conservative-led governments in the UK.