Women in prison: the stats unlocked

Who are the women in our prisons are how did they get there?

UK - Surrey - HMP Downview

A female prisoner just released from HMP Downview Women’s Prison is greeted by a volunteer to help her get to her destination. © Prisonimage.org

On 19 June 2015 there were 3,879 women in prison in England and Wales, compared to 81,864 men.

The number of women in prison nearly trebled between 1993 and 2005. This has started to slowly reverse, but there are still over 2,000 more women in prison today than there were just twenty years ago.

Simon Hughes said in February this year:

“There are so many women who ought not to be in prison. About half ought not to be there at all.”

What sort of sentences do women serve? 

  • Most women ­are in prison for ­non-violent ­offences.­ In 2014, 41 per cent of women were committed for theft and handling stolen goods.
  • Most women entering prison serve very short sentences. In 2014, 58 per cent of sentenced women entering prison served six months or less.

Who are the women in our prisons?

  • 53 percent of ­women report ­having­ experienced emotional, physical or sexual abuse as ­a ­child. That’s compared ­to­ 27 percent of ­men.
  • 46 percent have a­ history of domestic abuse.
  • 49 percent of women ­suffer ­from­ anxiety­ and depression, compared to 19 percent of the female population in the UK.

What is the impact of having a mother in prison?

  • Only ­9 percent of­ children­ whose­ mothers­ are ­in­ prison­ are cared for by their fathers in their mothers’ absence.
  • Parental imprisonment approximately trebles the ­risk ­for­ anti social­ or­ delinquent ­behaviour­ by­ their children.
  • Women are often held further away from their families, ­making­ visiting­ difficult­ and ­expensive.­ The average distance is 60 miles, for many it’s considerably more. Read our post by Vicky Pryce here on the importance of communication for women in prison.

Where do female prisoners go from England and Wales?

Click here to see exactly where the prisons are located.

If community alternatives to prison reduced reoffending by just six percent, the state would recoup the investment required­ to ­achieve ­this ­in ­just­ one ­year.

So what is the alternative? Listen to our audio interviews here to find out what the experts say on removing women from prison.


8 Comments on “Women in prison: the stats unlocked”

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  3. […] For a full break down of the facts and figures of women in prison and the impact of sending mothers to prison, read our post here. […]

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  4. […] find out more about mothers in prison read our Women in prison: the stats unlocked or our interview about motherhood in criminal and social justice with writer Lucy […]

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  5. […] number of women in prisons across the UK has doubled since 2000. So what steps are being taken to reduce the number of custodial sentences for women? Asked Drew […]

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