Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education



Front Page

World

UK

UK Politics

Business

Sci/Tech

Health

Education

Sport

Entertainment

Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Archive
Feedback
Low Graphics
Help

Friday, June 4, 1999 Published at 15:54 GMT 16:54 UK


UK

Record levels of women jailed

More women are being sent to prison for drugs offences

The number of women in UK prisons has risen to record levels.

Burglary and drugs offences have led to a big leap in the female jail population, it was revealed on Friday.

Linda Jones, Head of Women's Policy at the Prison Service, said the figures "scotched the myth" that women were being jailed for non-payment of fines and debts such as television licences.

Few jailed for fine default

The figures, revealed at a conference in London called "The Crisis in Women's Prisons", show that the number of women behind bars last year was 3,105 - double the number five years ago.

Mrs Jones said half of the rise was due to an increase in women being jailed for drugs offences.


[ image: Women are less likely than men to go to prison, according to research]
Women are less likely than men to go to prison, according to research
A third of female prisoners had been sentenced for drugs offences, and another third had been involved in "drug-related" incidents.

The number of women in prison for burglary went up by 18% to 130. But at the end of March, only four women were serving time for fine default.

"It is simply not true that a great many women are in prison for fine default," Mrs Jones said.

"In March, four of the 133 prisoners held for fine default were women, and none of them were jailed for non-payment of television licences."

Alternative sentences

Mrs Jones said the swift rise in the number of female inmates had created a challenge, but she denied that the service was in crisis.

At the end of April, the number was 3,160, which showed that the speed of growth had slowed down.

The growth could be further slowed by alternative sentences such as community service penalties and electronic tagging.

The conference was also told that current research showed that women were less likely than men to be sent to prison, including for offences like shoplifting, and that they received shorter sentences.

Research was also being carried out to find out what factors encouraged women to become criminals, and whether these differed from male "criminogenic factors".

Evidence suggested that victimisation and abuse were particularly significant factors in women's offending. Between 50% and 90% of women in prison were thought to have been abused.

'Macho and bullying culture'

The conference heard that the Prison Service aimed to ensure that regimes in women's prisons addressed the particular needs of women.

But although some good work was being done there was a long way to go.

Author and prison campaigner Angela Devlin said progress was being blocked by "deliberately obstructive" prison officers who were determined to perpetuate a "macho and bullying" culture in prisons.

She said too many officers saw prisoners as sub-human, referring to them as "bodies".

Prison slang used by staff, which included calling women who mutilated themselves "slashers" or "slicers", and those who attempted suicide "swingers", degraded women and showed a lack of concern for their well-being.

Ms Devlin also criticised the training and educational opportunities available to female inmates.

Mrs Jones said the majority of staff working in women's prisons were dedicated and caring, but acknowledged there were some officers whose attitudes were not acceptable. She said it was something which had to be tackled.





Advanced options | Search tips




Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©


UK Contents

Northern Ireland
Scotland
Wales
England

Relevant Stories

19 May 99 | Health
Action urged on jail suicides

04 May 99 | UK Politics
Prisons will 'never be drug free'

30 Apr 99 | UK
Bid to cut jail sick leave

28 Apr 99 | UK
Women's prison shamed over 'slopping out'

20 Apr 99 | UK
Women prisoners 'get rough deal'





Internet Links


HM Prison Service

Home Office

The Prisons Handbook


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.




In this section

Next steps for peace

Blairs' surprise over baby

Bowled over by Lord's

Beef row 'compromise' under fire

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Industry misses new trains target

From Sport
Quins fightback shocks Cardiff

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

IRA ceasefire challenge rejected

Thousands celebrate Asian culture

From Sport
Christie could get two-year ban

From Entertainment
Colleagues remember Compo

Mother pleads for baby's return

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Health
Nurses role set to expand

Israeli PM's plane in accident

More lottery cash for grassroots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Double killer gets life

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer

From UK Politics
Straw on trial over jury reform

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Ex-spy stays out in the cold

From UK Politics
Blair warns Livingstone

From Health
Smear equipment `misses cancers'

From Entertainment
Boyzone star gets in Christmas spirit

Fake bubbly warning

Murder jury hears dead girl's diary

From UK Politics
Germ warfare fiasco revealed

Blair babe triggers tabloid frenzy

Tourists shot by mistake

A new look for News Online