join us for the Holloway prison vigil on Christmas day
25th Dec 2013
3 - 4.30 pm
Outside Holloway Women's Prison
London - N7 0NU.
The World Health Organisation published a report, in conjunction with the United Nations, highlighting the special needs of women in prison.
“When a woman goes to prison, she enters a male-dominated society in which the needs and conditions of women are not taken into account”, said Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO regional director for Europe, in a statement following the report. “The result is that women pay a much higher price with their health than men do.
“Women who are sent to prison bring with them a complex set of problems, needs, anxieties, traumas, illnesses and types of dependence. A prison setting worsens these problems and increases the vulnerability of most of these women.
“A woman going into prison is likely to be a mother and is usually the primary or sole carer for her children. While she is imprisoned, her family may break up, resulting in her children ending up in state care institutions or alternative care.
“She is also more likely to harm herself or commit suicide than male prisoners, which is the reverse of what happens in the community.
“She has probably had traumatic experiences, often starting already in early childhood, such as sexual, mental and physical abuse or violence. Half of imprisoned women have also experienced domestic violence.”
*Statistics attributed to the International Centre for Prison Studies
‘Community solutions for non-violent women offenders should be the norm’, according to the Corston Report (2007). It concluded that “There must be a strong consistent message right from the top of government, with full reasons given, in support of its stated policy that prison is not the right place for women offenders who pose no risk to the public”
Women represent 5% of the overall prison population. The number of women in prison in England and Wales stood at 4,211 in December 2011.
Between 2000 – 2010, the women’s prison population increased by 27%.
Most of the rise in the female prison population can be explained by a significant increase in the severity of sentences. In 1996, 10% of women convicted of an indictable offence were sent to prison, in 2010 14% were.
One in four women in prison has spent time in local authority care as a child.
Nearly 40% of women in prison left school before the age of 16 years, almost one in 10 were aged 13 or younger.
30% of women were permanently excluded from school.
Over half the women in prison report having suffered domestic violence and one in three has experienced sexual abuse.
In the 12 months to June 2011 80% of women entering custody under sentence had committed a non-violent offence.
Women serve longer prison sentences than men and for less serious offences. 28% of women in prison had no previous convictions – more than double the figure for men (13%).
Women account for 47% of all incidents of self-harm inside prisons.
30% of women (as compared to 10% of men) have had a previous psychiatric admission before they come into prison.
51% have severe and enduring mental illness, 47% a major depressive disorder.
83% of women in prison stated that they had long-standing illness, compared with 32% of the general female population. 73% were on medication on arrival at prison.
Prior to imprisonment 85% of women were smokers, 75% had used illegal drugs and 40% drank alcohol in excess of the recommended limits.
It is estimated that more than 17,240 children were separated from their mother in 2010 by imprisonment.
Maintaining contact with children is made more difficult by the distance that many prisoners are held from their home area. This is particularly acute for women given the limited number of women’s prisons; in 2009 there were 753 women held over 100 miles from home.
‘Community solutions for non-violent women offenders should be the norm’, according to the Corston Report (2007). It concluded that “There must be a strong consistent message right from the top of government, with full reasons given, in support of its stated policy that prison is not the right place for women offenders who pose no risk to the public”.
Because of those figures, we believe that there are many possible points of intervention along the way, before women become entangled in the criminal justice system. There should be a range of easily accessible services in place to meet the needs of offended against, abused and disadvantaged women and girls so that they do not end up in the criminal justice system.
We believe the majority of women should be dealt with in the community in programmes specifically designed to meet their needs. Imprisonment should be used only in cases where women pose a threat to public safety. Prisons, for these women, should be small local units in urban areas offering a range of services including in-reach by community health, housing and social services and enhanced opportunities for keeping in touch with family and other support.
More than 625,000 women and girls are held in penal institutions around the world, either as pre-trial detainees or having been convicted and sentenced,with the U.S. holding about one-third of this population . The female prison population is growing in all five continents. Although women constitute a very small proportion of the total prison population, on average between 4 and 5 per cent globally, the WHO states the number of women in prison is increasing rapidly. The total in the 187 countries whose figures were shown in the first edition of the World Female Imprisonment List (2006) has increased by more than 16%, with the largest increase being in the Americas (up 23%) and the smallest increase in European countries (up 6%)*
Women in Prison a global Crisis
“The fact that the female prison population continues to rise, and indeed has risen by a considerable 16% since our last edition of the List in 2006, is a cause for serious concern. Given the high financial and social cost of imprisoning women, the data should prompt policy makers in all countries to consider what they can do to limit the number of women in custody. Excessive use of imprisonment does nothing to improve public safety.”
Director of the International Centre for Prison Studies.
Holloway prison vigil on Christmas day, 2013
3 - 4.30 pm
Outside Holloway Prison
London - N7 0NU.
Million Women Rise in Solidarity with Women in Prison: