PRESS RELEASE: Cross-sector coalition unite against proposed 500 new women's prison places

Today, 25 July, 70 organisations, Peers and campaigners have signed a joint letter calling on the UK Government to stop plans to build 500 new women’s prison places.

The signatories, spanning housing, domestic abuse, criminal justice, midwifery, mental health, and children's organisations, wrote to Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland QC MP and Prisons Minister, Alex Chalk MP, expressing their “grave concern” at the proposals, arguing for community solutions instead.

The letter, published in the Sunday Times, states that the plans, amounting to building a new large women’s prison, “fly in the face of the Government’s own evidence” which shows prison is more likely to increase re-offending rather than reduce it and calls for a reduction in the women’s prison population.*

Co-ordinated by national charity Women in Prison, the letter includes signatures from Shelter, Women for Refugee Women, Women’s Aid Federation England, Children England, Howard League, Napo, the Probation and Family Courts Union, Royal College of Midwives, David Challen and Baroness Corston who wrote the seminal report on women in the criminal justice system.

The letter also warns about the rise in self-harm in prison which has hit record highs over the past year and refutes the Government’s claim that additional places are needed to prepare for a projected rise in the prison population due to hiring more police officers. It comes after repeated calls from the criminal justice sector and members of the Government’s Advisory Board for Female Offenders for the modelling of the projections to be made available.

It concludes: “We urge the Government to rethink these plans, and take the common-sense approach already outlined which has broad support, before more families and communities are unnecessarily torn apart.”

Dr Kate Paradine, Chief Executive of Women in Prison, said:

Prison is a dead end, one that tears families and communities apart. This letter is testament to the strength of opposition to these plans from across sectors, as prison exacerbates a range of issues we are tackling including homelessness, trauma, abuse and mental ill-health. If the Government wants to address the root causes of why women are in prison and make our communities safer, it must stop the planned 500 new women’s prison places.

“Most women in prison are sent there for 6 months of less, which is long enough to lose your job, home and children. There is another way, one that the Government knows works. We can invest in community-based services, such as Women’s Centres, that support women to tackle the issues that sweep women up into crime in the first place, like domestic abuse and poverty.”

- ENDS -


*In 2018 the Ministry of Justice launched the Female Offender Strategy which set out to reduce the women’s prison population, committing to shifting emphasis from custody to the community, and as part of this abandoning plans to build five new Community Prisons for Women previously announced in 2016.

To read the letter in full click here.

For media enquiries, please contact Sorana Vieru at [email protected],

Phone: 07860 695 7527

Read the case for women’s centres here and for key facts on women in prison here.