Entertainment

Katie Piper reveals sadness over women with babies getting jailed ‘to feel safe’

In a new series, she sees women living behind bars with their babies.
In a new series, she sees women living behind bars with their babies.

Katie Piper has spoken about her new real-life documentary show where she visits mothers who felt they had to become “incarcerated to feel safe” and look after their babies.

In UKTV’s Katie Piper’s Jailhouse Mums, the 39-year-old presenter meets female prisoners across different locations in the United States as they go through pregnancy and begin serving time.

Across six months, she filmed five episodes about motherhood in prisons in places such as Chicago and America’s southern states where in some areas women and children live together behind bars.

Piper told the PA news agency: “In every single place, there was one consistency, and that was that the victim was always the child and research shows that if you have a weak connection with your mother, or it becomes fractured in some way, in those first two to three years of childhood, you are statistically more likely to end up in prison yourself.

“And that was what I met. I met people that were just trapped in this cycle, and they didn’t want to be there but it had become their normal and I started to compare my own life, my childhood – my normal was certainty, stability, love, affection.

“I mean, my adult years were slightly more chaotic, and more difficult because of my own personal traumas that I’ve had, but to see people that felt comfortable around pain, struggle, abuse, was really quite sad and some people, by their own admission, were glad to be in prison.

“Some people said this saved me.”

Piper also said the difference between her and these women is that when she “unravelled” there was support from her loved ones to “pick” her up.

The Loose Women star said she also met women who felt “relieved” as their other chances at motherhood had been “destroyed” by drugs, homelessness and abusive partners.

Piper, who competed on Strictly Come Dancing in 2018, added that seeing women caring for their babies in jail seemed more “nurturing” and made it “almost quite a happy place”.

She said: “I felt so sad that for some women, they had to get incarcerated to feel safe.”

Piper said her experience volunteering at a women’s prison in the UK, where she has done workshops and confidence seminars, inspired her to look at America which has a “varied” legal system across different states.

She also said viewers will hear stories of families being incarcerated together as well as things that will “shock, sadden and inspire”.

Virgin BAFTA TV Awards 2022 – London
Katie Piper (Ian West/PA)

Piper also said: “A lot of the conditions I saw were inhumane and that was hard to see because people sometimes do have to go to prison.”

She added that she “didn’t expect to see heavily pregnant women sleeping on iron metal bunk beds with no mattress (and) no cover”.

“I certainly didn’t understand what giving birth looks like when you were incarcerated,” she said.

“I met women that went full-term into their pregnancy, and then left in shackles to go to a nearby hospital to give birth with a male prison officer witnessing that birth, but no family members allowed.”

She added that after the birth, 24 hours later, some women claim they would return to their cell with “leaking breasts or a sanitary towel” and have to wait more than a week to make a phone call to get news about their baby.

Piper said: “I think what my project showed me is that in (the) majority of cases the best place for a child is with its natural mother… Overall, I really hope that this helps humanise the women that I’ve filmed with.”

Katie Piper’s Jailhouse Mums begins on Wednesday at 10pm on free-to-air entertainment channel W and will also be available on UKTV Play.