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Monday, 16 September, 2002, 19:24 GMT 20:24 UK
Prisons strained by women inmates
Highpoint Prison
The number of female inmates has doubled
The rising number of women in the UK's jails is putting a strain on the prison system, a BBC documentary has revealed.

A BBC East Inside Out documentary, which gained unique access to Highpoint Prison in Suffolk, found overcrowding was causing problems for staff and inmates.

The number of female prisoners has doubled in the past 10 years leaving prison staff "exhausted", the Inside Out team was told.

On Monday BBC News Online was told by the head of a leading prison think-tank that the sentencing to jail of so many women was "completely unnecessary" and led to up to 8,000 children being taken into care.

Staff 'exhausted'

In the documentary, broadcast on Monday night, Sue Doolan, the governor of Highpoint, told the BBC: "The number of short-sentenced women is rising.

"We have 19 women's prisons and very shortly they're going to be full."

The documentary reveals that in the prison's hospital wing demand for the 12 beds is so high some sick women are moved out prematurely to make way for more serious cases.

Heather Dorling, of the Prison Officers Association at Highpoint, said: "Everybody from the top woman to the bottom is extending, is doing overtime, is coming in on their rest days.

"They're exhausted and something is going to give."

'No crime explosion'

Over the hot bank holiday weekend marking the Queen's Jubilee something "did give", when some of the inmates staged a riot which led to 28 prisoners being moved to other jails.

On Monday, Frances Crook, director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said she was not surprised by the findings of the documentary.

"There is absolutely no reason for it at all. There's not an explosion in crime by woman," said Ms Crook.

She blamed governments for "creating a climate" against "criminal mothers" and said up to 8,000 children were being taken into care because their mothers were in prison.


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06 Aug 02 | England
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