Women in Prison comment on ‘The quality of work undertaken with women’: A joint inspection by HM Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Prisons

Women in Prison has commented on a new criminal justice joint inspection between HM Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Prisons: ‘The quality of work undertaken with women’.

The report found that:

  • 17 years on from the landmark Corston Report, there is still much more to be done to support women on probation and pre-release from prison
  • Service provision is overly complex and disjointed, doing little to address women’s practical needs like getting a bank account and a National Insurance number on release
  • Lack of certainty around suitable accommodation on release from prison led to barriers accessing other necessary services including mental health support or medication
  • There is little evidence of progress in addressing the root causes of women’s needs that lead to offending

Sonya Ruparel, CEO of Women in Prison commented:

“It's simply common sense that we should not be taking a group of women, who have often experienced huge amounts of trauma, and placing them in a broken system which cannot meet their needs.

We welcome today’s report, which highlights women in contact with the justice system, who often face multiple disadvantages like poverty, homelessness, domestic abuse, and mental ill-health, are being failed.

The report clearly shows that women are being met with a complex postcode lottery of services that are frequently unable to meet their most basic needs, both in prison and when they are in the community.

Where gender-specific services do exist, like Women in Prison’s and those provided by our partners, the report found that women were not able to access and benefit from them often enough.

We must take this seriously and invest in community-based support services that respond to women's needs and prevent them from being swept into the criminal justice system.

With the women’s prison population predicted to rise to 4,200 by November 2027, the urgency to act is mounting.”


Editors notes

  • Women in Prison (WIP) is a national charity that delivers support for women affected by the criminal justice system in prisons, in the community and through our Women's Centres. We campaign to end the harm caused to women, their families and our communities by imprisonment
  • The quality of work undertaken with women’: A joint inspection by HM Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Prisons
  • The Corston Report, 2007, called for a woman-centred approach to women entering the criminal justice system. It was a watershed report that: “advocated a more comprehensive and coordinated approach to women within the criminal justice system and those at risk of entering it. The recommendations included making community disposals the norm, developing a more comprehensive network of ‘one-stop shop’ community provision for women, and improving high-level governance and cross-departmental working for women who offend.” (The quality of work undertaken with women, A joint inspection by HM Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Prisons, May 2024
  • Sonya Ruparel, CEO of Women in Prison, was part of the expert reference group that contributed to and advised on this report.

Key statistics

  • According to the Ministry of Justice, the women’s prison population is projected to increase to 4,200 by November 2027 (1).
  • Self-harm incidents in women’s prisons increased by 11% in the 12 months to December 2023 (2).
  • The majority of women in prison (82%) report that they have mental health problems compared with just over half of men (59%) (3).
  • Seven in 10 women in prison reported that they had been a victim of domestic violence (4).

1. Prison Population Projections: 2023 to 2028, Ministry of Justice

2. Safety in Custody Statistics, England and Wales: Deaths in Prison Custody to December 2023 Assaults and Self-harm to September 2023

3. Bromley Briefings Prison Factfile, February 2024, Prison Reform Trust

4. Broderick, R. & Carnie, J. (2018). Women in custody 2017. 16th survey bulletin. Scottish Prison Service