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The latest safety in custody statistics for England and Wales, published by the Ministry of Justice at the end of October, show record numbers of self-harm – increasing by 13% in the last three months alone – and the numbers vary significantly by gender. Compared to a rate of 626 incidents per 1,000 prisoners in the male estate in the 12 months to June 2019, there were 2,940 incidents per 1,000 prisoners in the women’s estate. This is an increase of 20% in the number of incidents in the past 12 months, while the number of incidents per self-harming individual increased from 7.7 to 9.1 incidents. The proportion of self-harm incidents that required hospital attendance in the women’s estate was 2.3%, an increase of 32% to 253 incidents in the last 12 months.

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On Monday (11 November) we were delighted to attend Advance's 'Her story, her justice' event held at the Old Bailey.

The event highlighted the need for the criminal justice system to work for survivors of domestic abuse, and included a panel discussion of experts: Baljit Ubhey of the Crown Prosecution Service, Pam Chisholm of the Met Police, Kim Smith CEO of London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham and Domestic Abuse Commissioner Nicole Jacobs.

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Today (Tuesday 12 November) RCM published their position statement: perinatal women in the criminal justice system.

We welcome this statement and the emphasis on the unacceptable frequency at which pregnant women and new mothers are impriosn for primarily non-violent offences.

This comes only a short while after Lord Keen of Elie announced there were 47 pregnant women in prison across England and Wales (as of 3pm on 28 October), with fewer than five cases of women having given birth in cells in 2018.

The Birth Companions 2016 Birth Charter for women in prisons in England and Wales suggests around 600 pregnant women are held in prison each year, with some 100 babies born to women prisoners.

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Click here to listen to Juliet Lyon, Eleri Butler and Martin Nugent discussing how a whole system approach could support women in the criminal justice system in Wales on Woman's hour today (11 November).

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On Wednesday our Programme Director Jenny was delighted to attended a Magistrates Association event at the House of Lords to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first woman magistrate.

Women now make up 55% of magistrates – an unpaid role – but remain a minority of senior and paid judiciary. Speakers at the event included novelist Katharine McMahon and Dame Victoria Sharp DBE, President of the Queen's Bench Division. 

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Commenting on the report’s findings, Jenny Earle, programme director for the Prison Reform Trust’s programme to reduce women’s imprisonment said:  

“This report from an independent scrutiny body could not be any clearer or better informed. It details the pointless imposition of short custodial sentences, with two-thirds of women being released with nowhere to live; and the hundreds of women being recalled back to prison because they’ve broken the terms of their release. With no home, and too little support, many of these women are simply being set up to fail. The Government published a strategy in July 2018 that was supposed to address all of these issue, but 18 months on there is very little progress to show for it. These are problems that a prison cannot solve—it is time a government did.”

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