Lost mothers – How women and professionals involved with the criminal justice system experience enforced separation of new-born babies.

Project: Research

Project Details


Imprisoned women being separated from their babies are at heightened risk of suicide and self-harm due to ‘prison strictures and lack of anticipation of care needs’ (Cantwell et al., MBRRACE-UK, 2018:56). The proposed research will be a qualitative study to explore the effects of mandatory separation of babies from imprisoned women with Criminal Justice System (CJS) involvement, incorporating the experiences of midwifery, Health Visitors (HVs), social work and CJS professionals. This project is important due to the dearth of qualitative research into an area that poses such a risk to a woman’s mental health, due to the ‘disenfranchised grief’ (Doka, 1999) enforced separation may cause. The study will address gaps in the existing literature and in the processes that underpin the decision making involved for pregnant women with CJS involvement, developing a new conceptual framework. This perception will enhance understanding of the way that imprisoned women and those with CJS involvement experience the mandatory separation of their babies at, or soon after birth, offering a fresh perspective of the way’s loss is experienced by women facing separation from their babies in prison. This multidimensional, qualitative study will be significant, building upon the evidence base and the PIs original ground-breaking research into imprisoned pregnant women’s experiences. The economic and societal benefit of funding this project is twofold: firstly, the development of a conceptual framework for mandatory separation of women with CJS involvement from their babies will enhance sociological understanding; and, secondly, multi-disciplinary discussions of the themes arising from the project will help to formulate guidance and build policy together, constructing a sustainable network of expertise. This will model seamless coordination between professions, ensuring supporting appropriate mental and physical health needs for the woman who has been separated from her baby. New concepts will be transferable, adding to the overall sociology of loss and grief.
Short titleLost Mothers
Effective start/end date1/12/22 → …


  • Criminal Justice System
  • Mothers
  • Sociology
  • Midwifery
  • Prisons


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