In 2011 we asked ourselves a question...
...is there still a need for research into the treatment of women and girls in criminal justice?
The answer came back from all our stakeholders - a resounding YES
Since the seminal review by Baroness Corston in 2007 (see below) that looked at women with particular vulnerabilities in the criminal justice system, focus on women at a national level has waxed and waned.
Twenty-five of the forty-three recommendations from her review were accepted outright, with a further fourteen agreed in principle, but not all and we are still faced with some appalling statistics around women, particularly those who are incarcerated.
- On 15 May 2015 there were 3,889 women in prison in England and Wales.
- Most women entering prison under sentence (82%) have committed a non-violent offence. In 2014, 41% of women entering custody under sentence for theft and handling stolen goods.
- Most women entering prison serve very short sentences. In 2014, 58% of sentenced women entering prison were serving six months or less. In 1993 only a third of women entering custody were sentenced to six months or less.
- 53% of women in prison report having experienced emotional, physical or sexual abuse as a child, compared to 27% of men.
- 46% of women in prison report having suffered a history of domestic abuse.
- 49% of women prisoners in a Ministry of Justice study were assessed as suffering from anxiety and depression, compared to 19% of the female population in the UK.
- It is estimated that more than 17,240 children were separated from their mother in 2010 by imprisonment.
- Parental imprisonment approximately trebles the risk for antisocial or delinquent behaviour by their children.
- Women are often held further away from their families, making visiting difficult and expensive. The average distance is 60 miles, but many are held considerably further away.
- 26% of women and 16% of men said they had received treatment for a mental health problem in the year before custody.
- 25% of women and 15% of men in prison reported symptoms indicative of psychosis. The rate among the general public is about 4%.
- Women accounted for 26% of all incidents of self-harm in 2014 despite representing just 5% of the total prison population. This has fallen sharply since 2011 when women accounted for nearly half of all incidents, and reflects rising incidents amongst men.
- 46% of women prisoners report having attempted suicide at some point in their lives. This is more than twice the rate of male prisoners (21%) and higher than in the general UK population (6%).
- 45% of women leaving prison are reconvicted within one year. For women who have served more than 11 previous custodial sentences, the reoffending rate rises to 77%.
- Short prison sentences are less effective than community sentences at reducing reoffending.
- People serving prison sentences of less than 12 months had a reoffending rate seven percentage points higher than similar offenders serving a community sentence—they also committed more crimes.
(The information above was drawn from the Prison Reform Trust's Bromley Briefing, 'Prison, the facts' Summer 2015 - see below)