Open Letter in The Times
Nineteen women have died in England’s prisons this year, the highest number in 12 years. The vast majority of women prisoners are on short sentences for non-violent offences such as theft and handling. Most of them will be back in prison within a year. Many have a history of abuse, trauma and neglect with high rates of mental ill health, substance misuse and poverty. Imprisonment of a primary carer (often the mother) can have devastating consequences for children and 60% of women leaving prison have no home to go to.
Ten years ago Baroness Corston set out a blueprint for replacing women’s prisons with community-based custodial units for the small number who needed custody alongside a plan to radically reduce women’s imprisonment by investing in community sentences and holistic women’s services which can support prevention and early diversion and enable women to turn their lives around.
These alternatives to custody are cheaper, more effective at reducing reoffending than prison and allow children to stay in their own homes. One of the great victories of recent years has been the significant reduction in the number of children in prison. With the political will we can achieve the same success with women.
Kate Paradine (Chief Executive, Women in Prison)
Deborah Coles (Director, INQUEST)
Jackie Russell (Director, Women’s Break Out)
Polly Neate (Chief Executive, Women’s Aid)
Vivienne Hayes (Chief Executive, Women’s Resource Centre)
Sam Smethers (Chief Executive, Fawcett Society)
Katharine Sacks-Jones (Director, Agenda - Alliance for Women and Girls at Risk)
Naomi Delap (Director, Birth Companions)
Lucy Perman (Executive Director, Clean Break)
Adrienne Darragh (Chief Executive Hibiscus)
Joy Doal (Chief Executive, Anawim)