Across the UK, around 12,000 women are imprisoned each year. Majority of the women who enter the prisons have come from a background of abuse, and around 80% of those women who enter prison are serving time for non-violent crimes.

Although majority of the prison sentences for women are shorter than an average sentence, this still has an effect on those being sentenced.

The story so far…

Back in 2018, the Ministry of Justice released a female offender strategy that outlined plans to reduce the female population within prison. This came after finding that most women within prison have been negatively affected by the criminal justice system. However, recent plans released from the Ministry of Justice have now shown the plan to build a further 500 cells for women’s prisons across the UK in the hope to improve conditions on the prisons itself and also the mental well being of its inmates.

The plans for the new cells will be built in the existing women’s prisons to increase the number of single cells available and to also improve conditions.

The cells will include in-cell showers, and some will even enable women to have overnight visits with their children to prepare for life at home after release. The Ministry of Justice has also pledged almost £2m in funding to 38 charities so their “vital work in steering women away from crime can continue”.

The change came after many campaigners asked for the push to create the change when it came to sentencing women. In fact, the campaigners have welcomed the announcement, but have warned that the efforts do not go far enough to tackle longstanding problems within the women’s prisons.

When interviewed, Kate Paradine, the chief executive of the charity Women in Prison, said: “This pledge and funding are just the start, and a far cry from what is needed in order to provide stability for women who face the sharp end of our society.”

There has been some backlash from the plans, some feel that instead of building new cells, they should plan to create a safe haven to send women, especially as most cases are for non-violent crimes, a safe haven rehabilitation centre could be the answer rather than sticking them in a cell.

Emily Evison, policy officer at the Prison Reform Trust, said the plans would need to be backed up by “action on the ground to prove effective”, adding: “Instead of planning for a rise (in women prisoners), the government should redouble its efforts to ensure women are not being sent to prison to serve pointless short sentences.”

What the future holds for our women inmates or how the future of their well-being will be handled has been said that it may have been looked at down the wrong end of a telescope. Only time will tell on how the future plans will help.

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