In the Media

Letters: Amend bill to keep women out of prison

PUBLISHED February 14, 2012

The former governor of Styal prison, Clive Chatterton, has drawn attention to the devastating social and economic impact of women's imprisonment. Over the past 15 years, women's prison numbers have more than doubled. Each year over 11,000 women are received into custody. Most are held on remand or serve short sentences for non-violent crime. Although women form 5% of the total prison population, they represent almost half of the serious self-harm figures (In numbers, Women, G2, 12 February). Each year, almost 18,000 children are separated from their mothers; just 5% stay in their own homes when their mum goes to jail. Imprisonment will cause a third of women to lose their homes, reducing future chances of employment and shattering family ties. Half will reoffend within one year of release.

With peers today set to debate amendments to the legal aid and sentencing bill to reform women's justice and to make good the extraordinary omission of women from the bill, the government has an opportunity to put an end to the depressing waste of time, lives and money behind the bleak statistics. Baroness Corston's review, commissioned by the Home Office in the wake of six tragic deaths of young women at Styal, recommended that community solutions for non-violent women offenders should be the norm. Addressing the complex needs of women offenders requires close co-operation across departments and between national and local agencies. With clear strategic leadership and improved accountability, it should be possible to reduce offending by women and to reduce women's prison numbers.
Juliet Lyon Prison Reform Trust
Sheila Eaton National Council of Women
Janet Hemlin Soroptimist International
Rachel Halford Women in Prison
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