This article examines the unique experiences of pregnant women in prison, building on Sykes’ concept of the pains of imprisonment and Crawley’s notion of institutional thoughtlessness. Based on qualitative data from an ethnographic study of three English prisons, including interviews with 28 pregnant prisoners and 10 staff members and field observations, the study highlights the lack of basic provisions for pregnant women, such as adequate nutrition, fresh air and suitable bedding. The article argues that the lack of such rudimentary provisions leads to the unique experience of the pains of imprisonment for pregnant women. The article argues that the prison system needs to take a more considerate approach to prisoners who have specialist requirements, including pregnant women, rather than treating them as a homogenised group.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalCriminology & Criminal Justice (CCJ)
Early online date11 Feb 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Feb 2024


  • institutional thoughtlessness
  • prisons
  • pregnancy
  • women
  • pains of imprisonment
  • Ethnography


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