MORE than 30 children have been born to female prisoners in Scotland in the past five years.
Last year alone, seven inmates gave birth while serving jail terms at Cornton Vale women’s prison near Stirling.
Pregnant prisoners are transferred to hospital to give birth but one woman delivered her child in the ambulance and another at Cornton Vale itself.
As well as 31 births to prisoners, it has also been revealed that a total of 12 prisoners lived behind bars with their infants since 2010.
The figures, released under Freedom of Information laws by the Scottish Prison Service (SPS), have been condemned by campaigners.
A spokeswoman for Women for Independence, a campaign group for gender equality and social justice, said: “We believe that no child should be born in prison, and there are alternatives which are more humane and would save money for the public purse.
“No women with pre-school children should be given a custodial sentence. The majority of women imprisoned in Scotland already have mental health problems and drug or alcohol addictions, and young children being born or raised in prison do not have the best start in life.”
She added: “We’re tired of politicians striking poses of being ‘tough on crime’ and we call for a joined-up, intelligent approach to the problem.”
The mother’s unit at Cornton Vale has come under fire in the past, by an ex-inmate who described it as “cold” and “dingy”.
Donna McLeish gave birth while serving time in 2008 for assault. The mother, who was 21 at the time, said things “started to go wrong” as soon as she got to the prison.
In a newspaper interview in 2010 she said: “I started to lose a lot of blood, but the prison guard didn’t take me seriously.
“The prison said I wasn’t to get five star treatment because I was no different to any other prisoner. I thought I would miscarry.”
After she gave birth, she was sent to the prison’s mother and baby unit which caters for the needs of inmates with children.
She said: “You’d go insane on the unit. It’s cold and dingy and infested with flying ants.
“All the other mums hid in their rooms because they were out of their faces and the babies were coming off methadone and would cry all night.”
Some female offenders are also held at HMP Greenock, though it is not clear whether they accounted for any of the women included in the data.
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Prison Service confirmed that one woman gave birth in jail last year because her labour was “extremely quick”.
She said: “Our intention is always to deliver a child in hospital, but in this instance the labour was extremely quick and it would have been dangerous to try and get her to hospital.”
The spokeswoman added: “The Scottish Prison Service is totally committed to supporting mothers and helping them maintain relationships with their families while they serve their sentence. Throughout all stages of pregnancy, mothers are given the same healthcare as they would in a community.
“In every case, we put the wellbeing of the child as the primary importance.”
Cornton Vale, which opened in 1975, has a troubled history with a number of prisoners committing suicide over the years.
It holds all categories of women, including young offenders, women on remand and convicted prisoners.