Welcome to the Women's Programme


The Prison Reform Trust has long called for a reduction in women’s imprisonment in the UK and a step change in how the criminal justice system responds to the needs of women…

On our Women’s Programme pages you will find a range of resources relating to the policy and practice of women in the criminal justice system.

Why Women?

While there are signs of progress more work is needed to improve outcomes for women in the criminal justice system.

  • Across the UK, around 12,000 women are imprisoned each year.

  • Although women are less than 5% of those in prison, they account for over 19% of self harm incidents, an indication of the traumatic impact of imprisonment on many.
  • Women entering prison are more likely to have been imprisoned for non-violent offences.

  • Women in prison are highly likely to be victims as well as offenders. Over half the women in prison report having suffered domestic violence with 53% of women reporting having experienced emotional, physical or sexual abuse as a child.

  • Many of them have dependent children - an estimated 17,240 children are separated from their mothers by imprisonment every year.

Aim and outcomes

Transforming Lives has a single aim: to reduce the number of women sent to prison. To achieve this we seek to:

  • improve the governance of women's justice across the UK, which requires dedicated leadership and cross-government co-ordination informed by a robust economic case
  • strengthen the pathways into mental health and social care services for vulnerable women caught in the criminal justice system
  • increase awareness of the links between women's experience of domestic abuse and their offending
  • reduce the use of custodial remand unless the seriousness of the offence or the protection of the public demands it
  • promote non-custodial options for mothers of dependent children
  • reduce the number of foreign national and balck and ethnic minority women in custody
  • work intensively in selected local areas to foster greater use of early intervention and community orders for women.
Our report with the Soroptimists, Transforming Lives, recommends action to rebalance criminal justice responses in favour of effective, integrated local community measures.

Gender Specific Options For Diversionary Measures And Pre-Trial And Sentencing Alternatives Shall Be Developed Within Member States' Legal Systems, Taking Account Of The History Of Victimisation Of Many Women Offenders And Their Caretaking Responsibilities

The UK Bangkok Rules, Resolution 2010/16 Rule 57

Contact us

If you would like to know more about our work on women in the criminal justice system we would love to hear from you.

You can contact us in the following ways:

  • By email: womensprogramme@prisonreformtrust.org.uk

  • By phone: 020 7251 5070

  • By post: Women's Programme, 15 Northburgh St, London EC1V 0JR

  • On Twitter: @PRTuk

  • Newsletter: For regular progress reports, subscribe to the Prison Reform Trust newsletter.