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Latest stats Two babies born to mothers in Irish prisons last year, reveals Justice Minister

The two babies born to mothers in custody last year followed no babies born in custody in 2020 and one in 2019

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Justice Minister Helen McEntee (Niall Carson/PA)

Justice Minister Helen McEntee (Niall Carson/PA)

Justice Minister Helen McEntee (Niall Carson/PA)

Two babies were born to mothers in prison custody last year.

That is according to new figures provided by Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD (FG) who revealed last year, 11 pregnant women were “cared for” at the Dochas Centre women’s prison attached to the Mountjoy campus in Dublin.

In a number of written Dail replies to Labour TD, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin on the issue, Minister McEntee confirmed that from 2019 to the present, 39 expectant mothers “have been cared for” at the Dochas Centre.

Minister McEntee confirmed that a further 20 pregnant women “have been cared for” at Limerick prison during the same time period.

The figures for the Dochas centre show that one pregnant woman has been cared for this year, 11 in 2021, six in 2020 and 21 in 2019.

Separate figures for Limerick prison show that three pregnant women have been cared for this year to date, four in 2021, 10 in 2020 and three in 2019.

Minister McEntee cautioned that the numbers of pregnant women for each year “are not of unique individual prisoners. In addition, there may be overlaps in particular between the figures for Dóchas and Limerick”.

The two babies born to mothers in custody last year followed no babies born in custody in 2020 and one in 2019.

In her written response to Deputy Ó Ríordáin, Minister McEntee stated that “pregnant women in the custody of the Prison Service receive all of their antenatal care and education through the services of the local HSE Maternity hospital. Access to antenatal care is provided on a par with expectant mothers who live in the community”.

The Minister stated that Rule 17 of the Prison Rules 2007 “makes provision for a child to remain in the care of their mother in prison, until the child has reached twelve months of age”. 

Minister McEntee further stated: “Due to the specific needs of a number of the women who are pregnant, specialist HSE services have a very close and responsive working relationship with both prison management and the prison healthcare team.” 

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“Most women receive all their antenatal care external to the prison in routine antenatal clinics in the local maternity hospital. When needed and in cases of emergency, specialist midwives will attend the prison; however, this is not normally required.”

Minister McEntee stated “expectant mothers are always facilitated to have their children born in hospital. The Prison Service has a mother and baby unit in the Dochas Centre”.

She explained: “Expectant mothers are transferred from Limerick Prison to the Dochas Centre during their last trimester and remain there as long as their baby remains with them.

The Minister pointed out that “the construction of a new prison facility to provide accommodation for 50 female prisoners in Limerick Prison is advanced and is scheduled to become operational in the third quarter of 2022". 

Minister McEntee stated: “This development will enhance the facilities within the Limerick Female Unit to care for pregnant prisoners and provide a number of areas where the care of mothers and babies can be facilitated in a safe manner.”

Minister McEntee stated that “the number of babies born to women while in prison, when compared to the number who have been in prison while pregnant, is very low”.

She stated: “There are currently no babies residing in the Dochas Centre.”

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