women hands prison

More help needed to keep women out of prison

24 July 2018
  • In 2017, 1,204 women were sent to prison in London, mainly for theft.
  • Around 15 per cent of the arrests made by the police in London each year are of women.
  • Many women are being sent to jail for less serious crimes.
  • Following the closure of HMP Holloway there is no women’s prison in London

The London Assembly Police and Crime Committee report released today shows that having specialist women’s centres to support offenders in the community help to address the causes of offending and have a big impact on reoffending. The provision of such centres across London falls short of demand.

The number of women offenders in London is small and they are mostly responsible for low-level offences such as theft, common assault and TV licence evasion. Such offending is often related to financial difficulties, drug and alcohol problems, and coercive relationships.

The report recommends the Mayor use his powers and influence to ensure:

  • Women offenders, and those at risk of offending, have access to at least one more women’s centre in London
  • The number of women in London who are sent to prison for low-level and non-violent crime is reduced
  • Courts have the confidence to use alternative sentences to custody including community sentences
  • Women offenders can continue any education and skills training they have begun in prisons on their release

Sian Berry AM, from the Police and Crime Committee, said:

“Most of the crimes in London are committed by men, but the women who commit crimes, which are mainly of a much less serious nature, are getting badly treated by the justice system.

“Women prisoners from London are sent miles away, cutting them off from their family and support system, which harms their rehabilitation and risks damaging them further.

“Many of these women are not a threat to the safety of others and society in general, so shouldn’t be behind bars. London needs at least one more women’s centre specifically for offenders to provide more of the support that these women and their families need to get their lives back on track.

“The Government’s new strategy on female offenders presents a new opportunity. We are calling on the Mayor to lead the way, and work with Government to make sure that London is set up to make a difference to the lives of women offenders.”

Notes to editors

  1. Sian Berry AM, of the Police and Crime Committee, is available for interview – see contact details below.
  2. The report “A long way from home” is below.
  3. A woman who has been through the justice system is available for interview - see contact details below.
  4. Women sentenced to prison by the London courts do not stay in London. Following the closure of HMP Holloway in July 2016, they are placed in prisons such as HMP Downview, HMP Bronzefield, and HMP Send, all just outside London, or prisons further away. This creates challenges not only for these women in maintaining family and community ties, but for the services that are there to help deal with the causes and consequences of their offending.

  5. The independent charity St Giles Trust is available for comment - contact Tamsin Gregory, Communications Manager, [email protected]
  6. The charity Revolving Doors which helps women offenders is also available for comment – contact: Christina Marriott, Chief Executive, T: 020 7407 0747 or PA: Sarah Fletcher [email protected]
  7. London has only two ‘one-stop-shop’ women’s centres that provide a single access point to a wide range of services specifically for offenders and women at risk of offending. And access to this provision depends on where a person lives and their journey through the criminal justice system. There are eleven boroughs where women offenders do not have access to these women’s centres.
  8. London Assembly Police and Crime Committee.
  9. As well as investigating issues that matter to Londoners, the London Assembly acts as a check and a balance on the Mayor.