Women

Jane Hutt AM, Deputy Minister for the Welsh Government, will set out plans today (10 October) on working in partnership to reduce the number of women in Wales in prison.

The Cardiff summit, jointly hosted by Prison Reform Trust, Clinks, Community Justice Cymru and the Welsh Government, will bring together ministers, government officials, organisations supporting women in the justice system and women with lived experience, to support the delivery of the Female Offending Blueprint, published by the Welsh Government earlier this year.

The event is being delivered as part of the Prison Reform Trust’s UK wide Transforming Lives programme to reduce women's imprisonment, and to encourage implementation and investment in better responses to reducing crime committed by women.

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Photo credit: Welsh Government

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Commenting on the publication of the Joint Committee on Human Rights report Right to Family Life: Children whose mothers are in prison, Jenny Earle, programme director of the PRT Transforming Lives programme to reduce women’s imprisonment said:

“Today’s report recognises that women overwhelmingly commit non-violent offences, spend short spells behind bars, and are more likely to be the primary carer of their children. Ensuring that children’s welfare is more consistently and effectively factored into sentencing decisions, requires changes to both law and practice. This means that women have the opportunity and the confidence to disclose if they have children, and a prohibition on custodial sentencing without a pre-sentence report. The government must act on the recommendations of this expert cross-party parliamentary committee, and break the cycle of intergenerational crime once and for all.”

You can download a copy of our evidence to the JCHR inquiry by clicking here.

You can download a copy of our report on maternal imprisonment, 'What about me?', by clicking here.

Click read more to see our Head of Prisoner Engagement, Paula Harriott speaking to Channel 5 News about maternal imprisonment.

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A year after the publication of the government’s Female Offender Strategy, the Prison Reform Trust, in partnership with NHS England and NHS Improvement and the Centre for Mental Health, are bringing together allied organisations to support the delivery of better outcomes for women in trouble with the law.

The event, held at The Supreme Court today (4 September), will host a keynote speech from Lucy Frazer QC MP, Minister of State for Prisons and Probation, and bring together practitioners, politicians and policy makers from health, social care and criminal justice fields, alongside women with lived experience of the justice system. London’s Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, Sophie Linden, will also address the event.

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Photo credit: UK Parliament, licenced under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0) 

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PRT comment: HMP Eastwood Park

28/08/2019 00:01:00

Commenting on the findings of the HM Inspectorate of Prisons report on HMP Eastwood Park, Dr Jenny Earle, Prison Reform Trust lead for reducing women’s imprisonment said:

“The cause of at least some of Eastwood Park prison’s failings lie outside its walls in the lack of housing and mental health support for women in the community. It is shocking that inspectors found that more than two in five women were being released homeless—only increasing the likelihood that they will return back to custody. Over a year on since the publication of the government’s Female Offender Strategy, this report suggests that progress in key areas remains disappointingly slow. Women are still too often being set up to fail.”

Photo credit: Andy Aitchison

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There were more than 140,000 admissions into prison in England and Wales in 2017—the highest number in western Europe, according to a new report published today (24 June 2019) by the Prison Reform Trust.

The report Prison: the facts, reveals that, despite the number falling in recent years, England and Wales still have over 40,000 more admissions to prison than Germany, the second-highest—which has a significantly larger national population.

The rate of prison admissions, which accounts for the effects of differences in national populations, shows that England and Wales have a rate approximately three times that of Italy and Spain, and almost twice as high as Germany, with 238 prison admissions for every 100,000 people.

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Photo credit: Andy Aitchison

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Commenting on the publication of the final report from The Farmer Review for Women today (18 June 2019), Jenny Earle, Prison Reform Trust’s Transforming Lives Programme Director said:

“Lord Farmer’s report makes many practical, and measurable, proposals that if implemented will reduce the number of children unnecessarily separated from their mother by her imprisonment. The review’s focus on increasing the role of community based women’s services, recognises that many women in prison are there for non-violent crimes. It allows women to take responsibility for their actions, whilst minimising the trauma, stigma and social isolation faced by children when a parent is imprisoned. Our own research found that the views and best interests of children are rarely considered by the criminal justice system and that they face many barriers to getting support. The message couldn’t be clearer, what’s needed now is speedy implementation. Doing so will benefit women, children and society.”

Photo credit: Andy Aitchison

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The report published today (14 June 2019) by the Joint Committee on the Draft Domestic Abuse Bill recommends that the government should consider the proposal made by the Prison Reform Trust and Criminal Bar Association for a statutory defence to be introduced to protect those whose offending is driven by domestic abuse.

Commenting, Dr Jenny Earle, Transforming Lives Programme Director at the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“We are delighted with this important recommendation by the joint committee. Well over half of women in prison report that they are victims of domestic abuse and the true figure is likely to be much higher. The government has acknowledged the mounting evidence of domestic abuse as an underlying factor in many women’s offending, yet the law provides no effective defence for those facing prosecution in these circumstances. The government should seize this opportunity to strengthen protection and deter prosecution of women who may have been victims of more serious offences than those for which they are commonly imprisoned.”

For more information, see the Prison Reform Trust’s report "There’s a reason we’re in trouble": Domestic Abuse as a Driver to Women’s Offending.

Photo credit: Andy Aitchison

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Women with learning disabilities are at risk of becoming drawn into the criminal justice system due to failures to recognise their disability and a lack of appropriate support, according to a new report published today by the Prison Reform Trust, produced in collaboration with KeyRing Living Support Networks.

The report, Out of the Shadows, draws on the experiences of 24 women with learning disabilities in contact with, or on the edges of, the criminal justice system; and practitioners working within criminal justice, social care, and women’s services. Abuse by men lay behind the offending behaviour of most of the participating women.

The report gives a voice to women with learning disabilities, enabling them to talk about their experiences. This includes not understanding the implications of their behaviour and failure to comply with imposed sanctions; their histories as victims of violent and abusive behaviour; and enforced separation from their children, bewilderment and a sense of injustice.

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Photo credit: Polly Braden

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A new analysis of court data published today by the Prison Reform Trust has found significant variations in imprisonment rates for women between police force areas in England and Wales.

The average imprisonment rate for women in England is 30 per 100,000, and in Wales 48 per 100,000.

Cleveland has the highest imprisonment rate in England and Wales at 67 women per 100,000 head of population. Between 2012 and 2017 this region saw an increase of 22% in the use of immediate imprisonment for women.

By contrast, Greater Manchester, where there is a co-ordinated strategy involving the local authority, police diversion, a problem solving court and women’s support services, has an imprisonment rate of 25 women per 100,000 head of population. Between 2012 and 2017 it saw a decrease of 33% in the use of immediate imprisonment for women.

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Photo credit: Andy Aitchison

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Earlier this month the UN Committee on Women (CEDAW) published its latest report on progress in achieving women’s equality in the UK.  The UN Committee welcomed the UK Government’s “first female offender strategy in June 2018 to divert the most vulnerable women in the criminal justice system away from custody through the provision of tailored support in England and Wales.” However, reflecting concerns expressed by Prison Reform Trust and others, the Committee recommended that the UK government allocate sufficient resources to effectively implement the Female Offender Strategy; continue to develop alternative sentencing and custodial strategies, including community interventions and services, for women convicted of minor offences; and take further measures to improve the provision of mental health care in all prisons, taking into account the particular needs of women.

Welcoming the United Nations CEDAW Committee’s conclusions, PRT Transforming Lives programme director Dr Jenny Earle said:

“The government has recognised in its strategy that most of the solutions to women’s offending lie in the community, but so far has failed to adequately fund the women’s services that are key to delivering these.  Now an influential international body has added its voice to the growing clamour for more realistic funding. The time has come for the government to deliver on its commitments, and invest in those services it says it supports.”

Photo credit: Andy Aitchison

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The number of women recalled to prison has more than doubled since the introduction of government measures designed to support people on release, according to a new report published by the Prison Reform Trust.

The report, Broken Trust, reveals that over 1,700 women were recalled to prison in England and Wales during the last year, and that reforms which were intended to help are making things worse. Women are trapped in the justice system rather than being enabled to rebuild their lives.

The study, based on in-depth interviews conducted with 24 women, explores why increasing numbers of women are being returned to custody, and what the impact is on them and their families. It found that the threat of recall for women serving prison sentences of under 12 months is contributing to a breakdown in trust between them and the probation officers responsible for their supervision in the community.

The extension of mandatory post-custody supervision has disproportionately affected women. Recall numbers for men have risen by 22% since the changes were introduced, whilst for women they’ve grown by 131%.

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Photo credit: Andy Aitchison

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HMP Bronzefield IMB report

06/11/2018 09:00:00

Commenting on today's report by HMP Bronzefield's Independent Monitoring Board, Jenny Earle, Director of the Prison Reform Trust’s Transforming Lives Programme to Reduce Women’s Imprisonment, said:

“Yet again, a prison watchdog highlights the problem of short term prisoners being released with no home to go to. More than two years after Bronzefield prison had to resort to giving women tents to sleep in when they left custody, and nearly six months after the government published its long-awaited strategy on women offenders, this report rightly asks what has been done to fix a problem that only ministers can solve.

“The startling growth in the number of women recalled to prison since the Government’s so called “rehabilitation revolution” took effect; and the continuing scandal of women detained under the discredited IPP sentence rightly attract criticism. Ministers are quick to hold others accountable for operational failings, but as this report makes clear—the challenges facing Bronzefied require answers from the politicians.”

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As a result of growing demand, we’re pleased to announce that we have just re-printed copies of our report, Leading change: the role of local authorities in supporting women with multiple needs. Two years after the report was first published, its reprinting is timely and has a renewed relevance following the publication of the government’s Female Offender Strategy in June this year. The strategy rightly places emphasis on the importance of joining up agencies and work at a local level. Local Authorities are key in achieving this, providing strategic oversight, and enabling collaboration and coordination to deliver necessary support to women in contact with, or on the edges of the criminal justice system.

This report suggests ways in which local leaders and councillors can make a positive difference to the daily lives of women and children, helping them to lead healthy, fulfilling and productive lives.

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Vulnerable foreign national women in the criminal justice system, including trafficking victims, are facing inappropriate imprisonment and the threat of deportation at the expense of rehabilitation or support, according to a new report published today (17 September) by the Prison Reform Trust and Hibiscus Initiatives.

The report, Still No Way Out, found that foreign national women, many of whom are accused or convicted of non-violent offences and who have in many cases been trafficked or coerced into offending, are receiving inadequate legal representation, poor interpreting services and disproportionate punishment.

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Efforts to reduce the number of women in prison for non-violent offences have received a significant boost, with £520,000 of National Lottery funding. Announced today (16 August), the funding will extend the Prison Reform Trust's Transforming Lives Programme.

This continuation funding from the Big Lottery Fund, the UK’s largest funder of community activity in the UK, will extend the programme for a further two years, allowing PRT to maximise its impact and build on its successes to date.

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Children are often devastated when their mum is sent to prison but their interests are rarely considered by a justice system which is blind to their needs, a new report by the Prison Reform Trust (PRT) reveals.

For most children, their mother is their primary carer. Every year an estimated 17,000 children experience their mum being sent to prison. Last year, 83% of women sentenced to prison had committed a non-violent crime and 62% were serving a sentence of six months or less.

The report shows that a mother’s imprisonment not only damages the child’s relationship with her, but can affect every area of their lives, including their housing, education, health, and well-being.

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Commenting on the publication of the Ministry of Justice’s female offender strategy today (27 June 2018), Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“The strategy is welcome recognition of the futility of short prison sentences for women whose offending is often driven by abusive relationships or unmet mental health needs. The strategy recognises that many women are victims of more serious crimes than those they are accused of, and contains many positive promises of change. But it has not provided the resource to deliver that change, and no timetable to drive it.

“If the Government turns its good intentions into action, many thousands of women and families, including victims, will benefit. That work must start immediately.”

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A chronic shortage of housing support for women released from custody is driving them back to prison, according to a report published today by the Prison Reform Trust and Women in Prison.

Home truths: housing for women in the criminal justice system, found that while in-prison housing support should be an integral part of preparing for release, it is often last-minute, with some women unsure on the morning of their release if they will have accommodation that evening.

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Today's edition of the Guardian (3 May) reported that the Ministry of Justice has postponed the publication of its long awaited strategy for women offenders, according to a Whitehall source. The story was also covered by BBC Radio 4's World at One.

Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, has written to the Secretary of State for Justice, David Gauke, to seek clarification and reassurance that the strategy will be published before Parliament's summer recess.

Click read more to view a copy of the letter and to read Peter's full comment

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The government's consultation on domestic abuse, launched today, includes a welcome committment to £2 million of dedicated support for female offenders. Research collated by the Prison Reform Trust shows that 57% of women in prison report having been victims of domestic violence as adults. This is likely to be an underestimate.

Commenting, Jenny Earle, Director of PRT's programme to reduce women's imprisonment, said:

“We welcome the government’s recognition that coercive relationships can be a major driver to offending by women. It is time for concerted action to help women break the cycle of victimisation and offending that blights too many lives. The police, prosecutors, courts, probation services and the judiciary must work closely with women’s services to achieve the government’s aims of better outcomes for women and their families, and to reduce offending. The proposed Domestic Abuse Commissioner can play a key role in achieving a joined up approach to women who have been victims of much more serious offences than those for which they are commonly imprisoned.”


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In November 2016, the Prison Reform Trust (PRT) reported that more women than ever before in England and Wales were being recalled to prison following their release. Since that time, the number of women recalled to prison has continued to rise, and is now more than double the number it was before these reforms were introduced.

Why has the use of recall for women continued to increase when they are far less likely to commit serious offences, and why is the trend not slowing down as it has done for men?

Dr Thomas Guiney, Senior Programme Officer for the Prison Reform Trust's programme to reduce women's imprisonment takes a look.

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In an innovative partnership, supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Oxford University and the Prison Reform Trust have come together to create new resources, including films and briefings, for criminal justice professionals to help improve their understanding of the impacts of maternal imprisonment.

It is estimated that 17,000 children every year are affected by maternal imprisonment in England and Wales. 95% (16,000) of these children are forced to leave their homes as their mother's imprisonment leaves them without an adult to take care of them.

Despite this, no government agency has responsibility for ensuring the welfare of these children is safeguarded and their rights are protected.

Click 'read more' for the full story and to watch one of the films.

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The latest edition of the Prison Reform Trust's Bromley briefings prison factfile highlights in facts and figures the consequences of a punitive political arms race over criminal justice policy over the past three decades. Steep cuts to prison staff and budgets in recent years have exposed the fault lines of a failed approach. The result is an overcrowded and overstretched prison system where standards of safety and decency are way below international expectations.
 
This year’s Bromley briefings open with a brand new section which we have called “The long view”. The Prison Reform Trust has built its reputation over more than three decades on presenting accurate evidence about prisons and the people in them. In a world where ministers feel compelled to respond to issues with ever greater immediacy, “The long view” offers an antidote to the latest Twitter storm or early morning grilling in the media.

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Women in prison have often been victims of much more serious offences than those of which they have been convicted, a new report published today by the Prison Reform Trust reveals.

The report is timely in light of the forthcoming Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill and development of the government’s strategy on women offenders. A draft version of the report was discussed at a high level PRT summit in October, chaired by the Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria Vera Baird and attended by the then-Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability, Sarah Newton MP.

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The Prison Reform Trust has published Triage and diversion: Getting it Right 24/7, the report of a seminar held with Police Scotland earlier this year to consider the benefits and opportunities of early interventions for women. The briefing will inform an event in Edinburgh on Monday 27 November entitled Creating A Diversion—ending unnecessary imprisonment and punishment of women in the criminal justice system. The event is organised by the Scottish Working Group on Women Offenders together with the Prison Reform Trust and WFI Justice for Women, supported by Community Justice Scotland.

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Sarah Newton MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability, spoke today (17 October 2017) at a high-level roundtable in London to consider the links between domestic abuse and offending by some women, and what can be done to improve criminal justice responses in this area.
 
The Prison Reform Trust (PRT) organised the event in consultation with Against Violence and Abuse (AVA) with support from the Big Lottery Fund as part of PRT’s three-year National Lottery funded programme to reduce women’s imprisonment.

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The Prison Reform Trust has launched a briefing today exclusively with BBC Radio 5 Live Drive on the contribution of women’s centres to reducing women’s offending. The one page briefing condenses the important evidence underpinning women’s centres, and had been launched on the same day as the Ministry of Justice’s independent advisory board for female offenders met.

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We are delighted that the National Council of Women Great Britain (NCW) has reaffirmed their commitment to seeing fewer women in prison, with a motion passed unanimously at their annual conference on 7 October. The Prison Reform Trust’s Programme Director for Reducing Women’s Imprisonment, Jenny Earle, spoke in favour of the motion alongside NCW members Heather Carter and Coralyn Burge, drawing attention to the high levels of non-violent, acquisitive crime committed by women, addictions, primary caring responsibilities and histories of abuse. 

Commenting, Jenny Earle said:

"NCW is an influential organisation and Prison Reform Trust is proud to be affiliated. The NCW’s call to ensure that fewer women are sent to prison and that the provision of community-based solutions is improved, especially for women with dependent children is timely, and one the Government should take heed of ahead of the publication of the forthcoming strategy for women offenders.”

Find out more about why we should focus on reducing the number of women in prison by clicking here

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Black and mixed ethnicity women are more than twice as likely as white women in the general population to be arrested, according to a new report published today (31 August) by the Prison Reform Trust.

Black women are also more likely than other women to be remanded or sentenced to custody, and are 25% more likely than white women to receive a custodial sentence following a conviction, the report reveals. Black, Asian and minority ethnic women make up 11.9% of the women’s population in England and Wales, but account for 18% of the women’s prison population.

This report, Counted Out, is timely and has been submitted to the Lammy review ahead of its launch in September, to highlight the overlooked inequalities experienced by many Black, Asian and minority ethnic women in the criminal justice system.

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The number of women in prison in England and Wales has exceeded 4,000 for the first time in four-and-a-half years. Ministry of Justice figures released today show the female prison population currently stands at 4,007.

The latest edition of Prison: the facts (Bromley briefings summer 2017), published this month and covered exclusively on BBC Radio Four Woman’s Hour, shows an increase of 200 women in prison in the past year has pushed the female prison population towards this significant watershed after years of gradual but sustained decline in the numbers of women behind bars. The briefing highlights facts and figures which show the beleaguered state of our overcrowded prison system and the men and women in its care.

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Angiolini five years on

15/06/2017 08:47:00

The Scottish Working Group on Women Offenders is holding an event at the Scottish Parliament today, Thursday 15 June, to review progress five years on from the publication of Dame Elish Angiolini’s report of the Commission on Women Offenders.   Professor Nancy Loucks, Chief Executive of Families Outside, is presenting and will talk about the Transforming Lives programme’s work to reduce women’s imprisonment in Scotland.

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Commenting on the Ministry of Justice's safety in custody statistics published today, Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

"The message from these deeply alarming numbers could not be any clearer. An overcrowded prison system cannot cope with the number of people it is expected to hold. People are being maimed and dying in unprecedented numbers as a direct consequence. Two years of positive rhetoric from the government about prison reform has done nothing to stop a relentless decline in safety. There is no end in sight, and a new government must make a reduction in imprisonment a top priority."

The Ministry of Justice's safety in custody statistics (quarterly update to December 2016) are available here.

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Commenting on today's report by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“This is a heartbreaking report. Following public outcry more than 10 years ago, lessons looked like they had been learned. However this rapid reversal is yet another symptom of a system under more pressure than it can bear. The promised strategy for women offenders needs to set out how a much higher proportion of this intensely vulnerable group of women can be diverted from the criminal justice system altogether. There is rare political consensus for a radically different approach, and the government must seize the opportunity it presents to save lives in future.”

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New research published today by the Prison Reform Trust reveals significant variations in how police forces deal with women who come into the criminal justice system. Fair Cop? Improving outcomes for women at the point of arrest provides solutions and examples of positive work being delivered by police to tackle low level, non-violent crime committed by women. However, the report also found that opportunities are being missed to intervene early, reduce women’s offending and protect the public.

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Scotland has one of the highest rates of women’s imprisonment in northern Europe, a new report published today (8 March) on international women's day by the Prison Reform Trust reveals.

The report found that for every 100,000 women in Scotland, seven are held in prison, considerably higher than most countries in northern Europe, and more than double the rate in France (3.3 per 100,000).

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The number of women in prison is in danger of rising as new threats place further pressure on an already beleaguered prison system, according to a new briefing published today (9 February) by the Prison Reform Trust.

A sharp rise in the number of recalls to custody; increasing use of suspended sentence orders; and the continued decline in the number of community orders risk more women ending up behind bars.

Nearly 10 years after the publication of Baroness Corston’s seminal review on women in the criminal justice system, Why Women?, has uncovered new figures showing that the number of women recalled to custody following their release has increased by over two-thirds (68%) since the end of 2014. Women recalled to custody now account for 8% of the total women’s prison population.

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