Women in prisons: Why are there so many? And how do they end up there?

The UK’s female prison population has almost doubled over the last twenty years and, according to Justice minister Simon Hughes, half of them shouldn’t be there.


So who are they? And why are they there? In light of Mr Hughe’s comments we’ve put together a bit of background on women in prisons.


Women in prisons: How many are there?

3,854 women are currently in prison in England and Wales, that’s 130 less than this time last year.

But if you look further back, it’s clear the female prison population is rising, fast. In 1995, there were only 1,979 female prisoners.

big female prison pop

That’s a 95 per cent increase in less than 20 years.


How do women end up in prison?

Relationship problems and coercion by men feature strongly in women’s pathways into crime. 46 per cent of women report having a history of domestic abuse.

Drug addiction plays a large part in all offending, but is disproportionately the case with women.

Women are more likely than men to have suffered a history of abuse. 53 per cent reported having experienced emotional, physical or sexual abuse as a child, compared to 27 per cent of men.


What sort of crimes are women committed for?

Women tend to commit a different range of offences from men. They are less likely to be involved in serious violence, criminal damage and professional crime.

In 2013, 83 per cent of women entering prison had committed a non-violent offence. 40 per cent were there for theft or handling stolen goods.


Where do women go to prison?

Because of the small number of women’s prisons and their geographical location, women tend to be located further from their homes than male prisoners.

Women are, on average, held 60 miles away from their home.

Where do female prisoners go from England and Wales?

Click here to see exactly where the prisons are located.


What challenges do women face?

Mental health problems are far more prevalent among women in prison whether compared with men in prison or the general population.

Outside prison men are more likely to commit suicide than women, but the position is reversed inside prison.

Self-harm in prison is a huge problem and most particularly among women. 49 per cent of women suffer from anxiety and depression in prison, compared to 19 per cent of women in the rest of the UK.

Women are far more likely to be the primary carers of young children, this factor alone makes the prison experience significantly different for women.


Enjoyed this post? The prison watch team will be bringing you much more about women in prisons over the coming weeks, so keep a beady eye out and follow us on Twitter and Facebook, so you don’t miss a single thing.


TWITTER: @prisonwatchuk 
FACEBOOK: facebook.com/PrisonWatchUK

2 Comments on “Women in prisons: Why are there so many? And how do they end up there?”

  1. […] For more information on women in prison in England and Wales, check out this fact sheet. […]


  2. […] For background information on women in the criminal justice system, have a look at our guide to women in prison. […]


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