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News Archives: Index

October 7, 2010: Probation Set For Industrial Action

October 5, 2010: Turning Prisoners Into Taxpayers

October 4, 2010: Murder Changes Now In Force

September 20, 2010: Probation Programmes Face Cuts

August 24, 2010: Victorian Poor Law Records Online

August 10, 2010: Justice Job Cuts

July 28, 2010: Prison Violence Growing

July 22, 2010: Police Numbers: Latest Figures

July 22, 2010: New Jurisdiction Rules

July 16, 2010: CCJS On Prison And Probation Spending Under Labour

July 15, 2010: Latest Statistics On Violent And Sexual Crime

July 15, 2010: Latest National Crime Figures

July 15, 2010: New Chief Prisons Inspector

July 14, 2010: Hard Times Ahead For Prisons: Anne Owers

July 14, 2010: Prison Does Not Work: Ken Clarke

July 13, 2010: Criminal Justice Reform: Sentencing and Rehabilitation

July 13, 2010: Criminal Justice Reform Priorities

July 12, 2010: What Price Public Protection, Asks Probation Chief Inspector

July 12, 2010: NOMS has failed, says Napo

July 10, 2010: IPCC To Investigate Death of Raoul Moat

July 9, 2010: Women In Prison: New Report

July 9, 2009: Unjust Deserts: Imprisonment for Public Protection

July 8, 2010: Police Search Powers Change

July 7, 2010: Make 'Legal High' Illegal, Says ACMD

July 2, 2010: Failing Children In Prison

July 2, 2010: Police Buried Under a Blizzard of Guidance: HMIC

July 1, 2010: Freedom To Change The Law?

June 30, 2010: A New Outlook On Penal Reform?

June 30, 2010: Revolving Door Of Offending Must Stop, Says Clarke

June 30, 2010: Ken Clarke: Speech on Criminal Justice Reform

June 29, 2010: No More Police Targets

June 26, 2010: Family Intervention Projects Questioned

June 25, 2010: Cutting Criminal Justice

June 24, 2010: Napo on Sex Offenders Report

June 23, 2010: Closing Courts: The Cuts Begin

June 23, 2010: Strategy To Tackle Gangs

June 15, 2010: Courts and Mentally Disordered Offenders

June 8, 2010: Working With Muslims in Prison

June 1, 2010: Your Chance To Nominate a QC

July 9, 2010: Women In Prison: New Report

Though there have been some improvements in women’s prisons, concerns remain about the overall strategic approach and the inappropriateness of closed prisons for many women.

This is the view of Dame Anne Owers, Chief Inspector of Prisons, in the publication by HM Prisons Inspectorate of a short thematic report, Women in prison, based on recent inspections of all 14 women’s prisons.

The report also compares the findings of women prisoners surveyed during 2006-08 with those surveyed in 2003-05, thus providing an overview of the conditions and treatment in women’s prisons, and an account of any significant changes in women’s perceptions of the prison experience.

The Corston report, published in March 2007,had strongly advocated the development of alternatives and alternative forms of custody, but there were still about 4,300 women in prison. Despite commendable work in most women’s prisons, this report found:

  • because there are fewer women’s prisons, closed prisons are becoming more complex and sometimes larger. Nearly all are fulfilling many roles, and more women are held further from home, particularly women from the West Midlands;

  • there is no sense of a planned strategic approach, and changes to the women’s prison estate still largely reflect the needs of the expanding male prison population; and

  • women fare much better in open or semi-open prisons, but the two semi-open prisons have since become closed.

Inspections chronicled some improvements:

  • better treatment and management of women with substance use problems has undoubtedly contributed to the drop in self-inflicted deaths in recent years;

  • healthcare, and in particular, secondary mental healthcare, had improved;

  • activities were reasonably good in all prisons, and relationships with staff were good in most; and

  • recently, routine strip-searching has been abandoned.

However, there remain areas of serious concern:

  • the extent and seriousness of self-harm, particularly in local prisons, which sometimes resulted in extreme preventive measures, such as the use of force;

  • three women’s prisons were not considered to be sufficiently safe, in one case after the arrival of a large number of male detached duty staff;

  • some resettlement services were not sufficiently aligned to the specific needs of the women;

  • work with foreign nationals, a large proportion of the population, was under-developed; and

  • there was insufficient primary mental healthcare, alcohol services, or custody planning for short-sentenced and remanded women.

Anne Owers commented:

"Overall, this report records commendable work in most women’s prisons, dealing with some extremely vulnerable and sometimes challenging women. It also shows how quickly prisons can deteriorate unless closely managed and appropriately staffed.

"However, it will do nothing to allay the underlying concerns about the use of imprisonment, particularly in closed environments, for many women – especially as they are now more likely to be further from home and in larger, multi-functional establishments.
"In spite of a stated commitment to reduce the women’s prison population, it remains obstinately static, at the same level as a year ago. Work is certainly needed to improve the prisons we inspect; but even more work is needed to create and properly use viable and more appropriate alternatives to prison."