What is it about?
With a prison population of approximately 9000 women in England, it is estimated that approximately 600 pregnancies and 100 births occur annually. Despite an extensive literature on the sociology of reproduction, pregnancy and childbirth among women prisoners is under‐researched. This article reports an ethnographic study in three English prisons undertaken in 2015‐2016, including interviews with 22 prisoners, six women released from prison and 10 staff members. Pregnant prisoners experience numerous additional difficulties in prison including the ambiguous status of a pregnant prisoner, physical aspects of pregnancy and the degradation of the handcuffed or chained prisoner during visits to the more public setting of hospital. This article draws on Erving Goffman's concepts of closed institutions, dramaturgy and mortification of self, Crewe et al.'s work on the gendered pains of imprisonment and Crawley's notion of ‘institutional thoughtlessness’, and proposes a new concept of institutional ignominy to understand the embodied situation of the pregnant prisoner
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Why is it important?
With a prison population of approximately 9000 women in England, it is estimated that approximately 600 pregnancies and 100 births occur annually. Despite there being an extensive literature on the sociology of reproduction, pregnancy and childbirth, there has been scarce qualitative research looking specifically at pregnant prisoners.
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This page is a summary of: Pregnancy and childbirth in English prisons: institutional ignominy and the pains of imprisonment, Sociology of Health & Illness, January 2020, Wiley, DOI: 10.1111/1467-9566.13052.
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