The overall numbers of girls in the youth justice system and in the secure estate have fallen rapidly over the past decade. The recent decline in the use of custody is very welcome but poses significant challenges for the commissioning of placements, custodial establishments and resettlement services. Girls have become increasingly overlooked by the penal system at both a policy and a practice level and their diminishing minority in custody has exacerbated the marginalisation of their needs. Analysis of the existing literature has underlined the damaging and disruptive nature of incarceration, identified a lack of policy focus on the female population in the youth secure estate and found a paucity of available data about the nature of recent custodial sentencing, remand and placements for girls.
The primary aim of this research project is to critically examine the use of penal custody for girls in England and Wales, in order to fill a gap in the existing research, policy and practice literature. This study aimed to address this gap by analysing recent custody data, to investigate how penal detention is being used for girls from a gendered perspective.