I recently wrote this letter to the Independent in response to their article “Action of Scandle of Women in Jail”
The Justice minister Maria Eagle’s promise to make a “significant” cut to the number of women in jail and reinvest the savings in community-based rehabilitation (report, 8 August) has been long awaited by women and prisoners’ rights campaigners.
The women’s prison population has increased by more than 170 per cent over the past 10 years, even though the nature and seriousness of women’s offending has not changed. By comparison, the men’s prison population has risen by just 50 per cent over the same period.
In the vast majority of cases, prison is an inappropriate and damaging place for female offenders, who pose a much lower level of risk to the public than their male counterparts. Female offenders are also much more likely to be solely responsible for the care of children and running a home. When a mother is imprisoned, it is not just a sentence for her but also for her children, who face years of fostering or local authority care.
Thirteen years on from the Learmont inquiry, which concluded that women should be held in small self-contained units in urban areas, I hope that these reforms to the imprisonment of women will be made now.
Mary Honeyball MEP
Labour Spokesperson in the European Parliament, Women’s Rights Committee