Women in Prison - Action for Prisoners` Families

January 6, 2018 | Author: Anonymous | Category: Social Science, Law, Criminal Justice
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Annual Conference Family Focus – Young People, their Families and the Criminal Justice System Helen Emmings Kate Johnson Addressing the Needs of Young Women in the Criminal Justice System

Addressing the Needs of Young Women in the Criminal Justice System Helen Emmings Kate Johnson 5th December 2012

Who we are  Women in Prison (WIP) is a charity working with women at risk of going to prison, in prison or in the community to promote their resettlement, personal development, education and training. We have been running for over 25 years.  We educate the public and policy makers about women in the criminal justice system and we promote alternatives to custody.

“Taking the most hurt people out of society and punishing them in order to teach them how to live within society is, at best, futile. Whatever else a prisoner knows, she knows everything there is to know about punishment because that is exactly what she has grown up with. Whether it is childhood sexual abuse, indifference, neglect; punishment is most familiar to her.” Chris Tchaikovsky- Former prisoner and founder of Women in Prison

Policy & Campaigning

Planning, developing and carrying out policy and campaigning activities in order to highlight issues of concern to women within the criminal justice and to push for action by government and other agencies to address those issues.

Profile of Female Offenders


Current Population  There are 13 women’s prisons in England and none in Wales.  Women represent 5% of the overall prison population.  There are only 3 prison establishments in England which can receive young women (under 18 years old). They are in Surrey, Gloucestershire and West Yorkshire.  In 2009 there were 753 women held in prisons over 100 miles from their home.

Prison and General Population Characteristic

Ran away from home as a child

Prison population Female




Taken into care as a child

General population Female 11%


Regularly truanted from school


2% 30%


Excluded from school




No qualifications




Numeracy at or below Level 1 (11yrs)



Reading ability at or below Level 1



Unemployed before imprisonment






Diagnosed with two or more mental illnesses





Drug use in the previous year





Hazardous drinking





Growth  In the last decade the women’s prison population has gone up by 60%.  In 1995 the mid-year female prison population was 1,979  In 2000 it stood at 3,355  In 2007 it was 4,283. -Ministry of Justice (2009) Offender Management Caseload Statistics 2008, London: Ministry of Justice

Previous Convictions  27% of women in prison had no previous convictions, over double the figure for men. -Prison Reform Trust 2010

 12% of women serving sentences of under six months had no previous convictions, compared with only 5% of men. -Ministry of Justice (2009) Offender Management Caseload Statistics

2008, London: Ministry of Justice

Sentencing Most of the rise in the female prison population can be explained by a significant increase in the severity of sentences. A woman convicted of theft or handling stolen goods in the Crown Court is now twice as likely to go to prison as she was in 1991. In Magistrates Court - increase in custody even higher. Justice and Equality: Second Annual Review of the Commission on Women and the Criminal Justice System. Fawcett Society: 2006

Remand Women on remand make up 18% of the female prison population -Ministry of Justice (2010) Population in Custody, England and Wales, April 2010, London: Ministry of Justice

The number of women on remand increased by 105% between 1995 and 2005, compared with a 24% increase for men. -Bromley Briefings Prison Factfile 2006, Prison Reform Trust.

These women spend an average of four to six weeks in prison and nearly 60% do not go on to receive a custodial sentence. -Department of Health (2009) The Bradley Report, Lord Bradley’s report on people with mental health problems or learning disabilities in the criminal justice system, London: Department of Health

A Life of Exclusion  Women in the Criminal Justice System have

experienced lives often characterised by abuse, mental illness, poverty, educational under attainment, poor housing and substance misuse.  These experiences are compounded by experiences of prison, a system based on disempowerment and control.

‘Walk the Line’ Exercise

Experiences of Abuse  40% of young women in custody(aged between 18 and 21) report having suffered violence at home.  Over 30% of young women in custody (between the ages of 18 and 21) report having experienced sexual abuse at home.  Experiences of abuse make engagement with services more difficult.

Barriers to Engagement Emotional  Difficulties trusting people due to experiences within personal relationships.  Extensive contact with welfare agencies from childhood and/or as mothers.  Powerful emotions in terms of view of themselves & authorities.  Difficulties disclosing experiences from past or to be honest about current situation.  Avoidance – based on fear.  Withholding info for fear of recall.

Barriers to Engagement Practical: Time needed to establish positive relationships Prisons far from home – so contact with family limited Changing caseloads of professionals leading to a feeling of being ‘passed from pillar to post’  Conflicting demands on time, particularly for young women.  Practically more likely to affect women than men.

Mums in Prison  66% of women and 59% of men in prison have dependent children under 18. - Of those women, 34% had children under five, a further 40% children aged from five to 10.  40% of women under 18 in prison are mothers.  Each year it is estimated that more than 17,700 children are separated from their mother by imprisonment.

Mums in Prison  One Home Office study showed that for 85% of mothers, prison was the first time they had been separated from their children for any significant length of time. Home Office Research Study 162 (1997), Imprisoned Women and Mothers, Home Office: London

Intergenerational Offending  Having a mother involved in the Criminal Justice System presents an increased risk of daughters also developing offending behaviour.  May have different routes than for sons e.g. acquisitive offending, sex work, domestic abuse and substance misuse.

Equality  Equality is about more than equal treatment. Equality can require different treatment to deliver an equal outcome.  Programmes to support prisoners’ resettlement will disadvantage women if they do not respond to the distinct root causes of women’s offending.

Case Study For the case study consider the following:  What key needs do Gemma and her family have?  What barriers might Gemma face?  What sort of services would (in an ideal world) be most appropriate to address her needs?  What services in your area offer something you would like to share with your group?

Questions? Women’s Support Centre (Surrey) 19a High Street Woking Surrey`

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