originally by: The Independent
published: 28th November 2010
Ministers plan to slash the number of women sent to prison amid complaints that women behind bars are exposed to increased risks of mental illness, self-harm and even suicide. The Government plans to use the forthcoming sentencing review to reverse the rising numbers of women jailed – often on remand or for “minor” offences such as shoplifting.
Women make up 5 per cent of the overall prison population in England and Wales – just over 4,000 out of more than 85,000 inmates. However, the number has risen by a third in only a decade, and campaigners claim that the impact of sending a woman, rather than a man, to prison is usually more drastic – on themselves and on dependent children left on the outside.
Official figures show that 70 per cent of women in prison have two or more diagnosed mental health problems, and that female prisoners account for 52 per cent of all self-harm incidents behind bars. Fifty-five women prisoners killed themselves between 2002 and 2009.