Prison releases in response to Covid-19 crisis

Immediate release: Women in Prison’s comment on the 6 women released from prison in response to Covid-19 crisis

For immediate release: 7th April 2020

Today the government has announced they have released 6 pregnant women from prison. This number is far below the previously confirmed release of 30 pregnant women from prison and mothers and babies on prison Mother and Baby Units (MBUs).

Prisons across the UK are implementing inhumane cohorting measures. These measures involve creating Reverse Cohort Units - where people entering the prison system are held in quarantine for 14 days; Shielding Units (where people at risk from the virus are held for at least 12 weeks) and Protective Isolation Units (where people with symptoms are held for 7 days). These measures will do very little to slow the spread of the virus through the prison system.

People will still remain in cramped and over-crowded cells with limited access to basic sanitation. This is in addition to the fact that Covid-19 is often asymptomatic and when people or staff move between the units there is a risk, they will spread the virus throughout the prison. These measures are also putting more lives at risk by forcing people who have flu symptoms to share cells with people who have been diagnosed with Covid-19.

We know that any prison’s internal health provision will become quickly overwhelmed in the event of an outbreak, which will mean additional pressure on the NHS services locally. Prison releases will protect the lives of those people inside, including staff but will also save lives lives in the community and protect our NHS.

Kate Paradine, CEO of Women in Prison, says

“Failure to act with urgency to drastically reduce the number of people in prison will have a devastating impact on all of our communities. The government is taking too long to release pregnant women and those on Mother and Baby units from prison. Now is not the time for complacency, the government must act fast to release the remaining pregnant women and many more people from prison with the housing and support they need.

The Government need to demonstrate leadership on this crisis. Further inaction will result in more avoidable deaths both inside and outside of prison and a public health catastrophe.”


Laura Hill
07971 755586
[email protected]

Editor’s Notes

  • Women in Prison is a charity founded 35 years ago. It provides support, advice and guidance to women affected by the criminal justice system and campaigns to prevent the harm caused to women, their families and our communities by imprisonment.
  • Women in Prison are calling for the planned immediate release of pregnant women and mothers and babies on prison Mother and Baby Units; people in prison who have been recalled to prison for administrative breaches; people who were already resettling on Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL); people who are particularly vulnerable to the virus due to age or underlying health conditions; people serving a sentence with 6 months or less remaining and those on remand who pose no further risk from harm. Women in Prison are also calling for the government to take immediate steps to radically reduce the number of people entering the prison system by placing a moratorium on imposing sentences of less than six months, a radical reduction in these of remand in custody, and an end to recall for administrative breaches. Please reading our briefing on immediate release here.
  • More than 150 charities, grassroots organisations and individuals signed an open letter to the government calling for an immediate release of people from prison, young offender institutions, secure training centres and immigration detention settings. Please read the letter here.
  • More than 107 people inside prison have been diagnosed with covid-19 and 9 people have died.