Our Story

Our history is at the root of who we are today: an organisation centred on women’s experiences and ambitious for radical change. WIP is built on lived experience after our founder Chris Tchaikovsky was moved to take action by what she experienced and saw when imprisoned in HMP Holloway in the 1970s.

During Chris' time in prison, a woman died after setting fire to her own cell.

Chris saw that the specific needs of women in prison and the damaging effect prison sentences were having on women were completely missing in public and political discussions. So, in 1983, alongside international criminologist Pat Carlen, Chris founded Women in Prison, and pushed hard to expose this scandal and campaigned for change. Our founders wanted to increase awareness of the lives of women behind the gates of our prisons - lives marked by sexual abuse, poverty and violence.

In the early 1990s, WIP was able to expand beyond campaigning to begin delivering direct support to women affected by the criminal justice system. We started off by focusing on providing support in prison and then developed our support for women in the community after release.

Chris passed away in 2002 but WIP continues to build on the legacy of our visionary founder. Read more about The life of Chris Tchaikovsky by WIP's Former Chair of Trustees, Yvonne Roberts.

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

Read this article with Chris on the founding of Women in Prison:

In conversation with Chris Tchaikovsky