Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Baroness Jean Corston's recommendations regarding the situation of vulnerable women prisoners in the criminal justice system was published yesterday. Charles Clarke, then Home Secretary, ordered this review rather than a public enquiry into the deaths of women prisoners.
One of the recommendations is to close down existing women's prisons over a period of 10 years and replace them with a local network of small custodial units reserved only for those who are a "danger to the public". There is no mention about looking at the way women are currently sentenced.
Lady Corston: "A large proportion of the 4,300 women in prison in England and Wales could be better dealt with in community centres which could deal with their problems of mental illness, addiction and history of abuse".
And two of the worst jails for women are Styal (described to me once by a former woman prisoner as a "shit-hole") and Holloway (Grand Guignol of womens prisons).
Two women prisoners have already committed suicide since the start of 2007. There have been 71 suicides by women prisoners since 1997. In the past 10 years the number of women in prison has rocketed by 146%. Majority of women are in prison for petty crimes (shoplifting, theft and handling). And 41% are in prison because of drug offences.
70% of women in prison have mental distress
20% have been in the care system as opposed to 2% in the general population
50% report being survivors of childhood abuse and/or domestic violence.
I could go on with the statistics but won't. Whether New Labour will take Corston's "radical" recommendations seriously is another thing as they kinda contradict the "tough on crime" stance.
Something has to give or we will continue to see the number of distressed women being banged up for petty crimes. How many more women have to kill themselves?
Inquest have given their take on Corston.
There is an on-line petition as well.