Roasters have gathered outside HMP Bronzefield in Surrey to call for an end to confinement for pregnant women and new mothers.
Activists, former prisoners and mothers with their children staged a demonstration outside the prison on Saturday afternoon – the third anniversary of the death of a newborn baby at HMP Bronzefield in 2019.
It comes as the latest in a series of public protests over mothers in prison, organized by the campaign groups No Births Behind Bars and Level Up.
Saturday’s performance was set up like a child’s birthday party – with picnic rugs, a musician playing guitar, children dancing and people singing nursery rhymes.
The group also carried banners and signs: “No birth behind bars” and “Pregnant women are not in prison”.
Level Up co-director Jenny Starling said the performance was “joyful” and “an experience all women in prison should have”.
Ms Starling said that despite the deaths of two children in prison over the past three years, “very little has changed”.
“We are here today to demand an end to the imprisonment of pregnant women,” he said.
“What we are seeking are alternatives in a community that supports women.”
Anna Harley, 36, who gave birth while being held in custody before her sentence, joined the protest.
Ms Harley said she was granted bail for three months after the birth of her son.
But when she was eventually sentenced to prison, it took six weeks to deal with the bureaucracy to secure a mother-and-child unit so she could be reunited with her child, she said.
The 36-year-old said the experience is “still affecting me”, adding: “It’s been five years for me but even today, it was the worst time of my life.”
On securing a spot in the mother and child unit, she said: “It was a very stressful time, but it must be one of the most special times in a person’s life and for me personally, I felt it Everything has gone away from me. ,
Ms Harley also described going into labor at 5.30 a.m., but the prison didn’t put her in an ambulance for the next five hours.
She also said that she was handcuffed to an officer and gave birth to two prison officers.
But she said she was “incredibly lucky” to get to the hospital on time.
On mothers giving birth in prison, she said: “My heart breaks for them. It’s so easy to see how it happened and that’s why it needs to stop because it will happen again.”
Ms Harley said: “I carry a guilt with me and I think I’ll carry it with me for the rest of my life.
“The trauma of having my child and having my child under these circumstances will always be with me.”
Mel Evans, 39, of Manchester, who founded the campaign group No Births Behind Bars with her friend Emma Hughes, also joined the protests on Saturday.
She said that both she and Emma were told they faced jail time after a protest allegation a few years ago. Emma was pregnant at the time.
The pair were eventually sentenced to a community order, but the experience inspired them to set up a campaign group, she said.
On the recent deaths of children in prison, Ms Evans said: “I think it’s unconscionable.
“I can’t afford to live in a society where this is allowed to happen.”
“It’s just barbaric,” he said, adding that the condition of pregnant women in prison is “horrible.”
“No pregnant woman should be kept in prison, no child should be born in prison and the new mother should be able to share the beginning of her child’s life in the community.”
The PA has contacted the Justice Ministry for comment.