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Monday, 3 November 2008


I had the following letter printed in the Independent on Saturday 1 November.
The letter deals with a very important topic. I therefore thank the Independent for being bold enough to publish it, including my direct criticism of Tory MEPs.

Scandal of mothers held in prison

Your report on the devastatingly high numbers of mothers imprisoned in the UK for non-violent offences (front page, 27 October) raises an important issue for those of us in front-line politics. In Brussels this year, my colleagues and I made recommendations to EU governments stating that pregnant women and mothers of young children should be jailed only as a last resort.
The report's recommendations, to alleviate the mental and physical dangers posed to mothers and children by a prison environment, were voted through by most MEPs across all countries and parties. But, embarrassingly for the UK, our Conservative MEPs abstained from voting. The Tory MEP Chris Heaton-Harris said the findings of the report "are more coherent with somebody who watched too much Prisoner: Cell Block H as a child than the actual situation of women in prisons".
I hope that your reporting of the realities of numbers of mothers in prison will wake politicians who deny what life is like for a mother raising her child behind bars and spur immediate action to redress this rising birth rate in jails.

Mary Honeyball MEP
Labour Spokesperson in the European Parliament, Women's Rights Committee, London W9

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