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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 14, 2009: Female Deaths In Custody

The Howard League for Penal Reform has just released new figures which reveal that 1,668 women and girls have died in custody (prison, immigration, approved premises and detention under the Mental Health Act) between 1999 and 2008.

The Howard League figure includes 72 women officially recorded as ‘self-inflicted deaths’ in prison. Another three women have died in prison and been categorised as self-inflicted deaths this year, with one woman dying categorised as natural causes.

The Howard League has launched a campaign to put a stop to the increasing number of women and girls being sent to prison in England and Wales. The Lost Daughters campaign recommends that prison for women is unnecessary. The very few really dangerous women should be held in small secure units that can deal with their needs and prepare them for a safe return to the community.

The Howard League is particularly concerned at the number of women apparently dying by their own hand detained in mental health care.

There were two female deaths in probation run premises over the ten year period (one categorised as suicide, one as an overdose) and one female death in an immigration centre. A gender breakdown of deaths in police custody is not currently available.

Self injury rates among women in prison rose by 48% between 2003 and 2007. Despite women constituting only 5% of the overall prison population, they commit over 50% of all self-harm incidents in prison, and we have already seen three suicides this year. The Howard League points out that one was Alison Colk, a young woman who committed suicide on her first night in Styal prison. She was on a 28 day sentence for theft.

The Lost Daughters campaign has two stories at its heart: One daughter lost, one daughter saved. Sarah was 18 and died within 24 hours of arriving at Styal prison. The response to her overdose was slow and she died in hospital. Susan was imprisoned after a deeply traumatic childhood and severe self injury left her in a life threatening condition. The Howard League obtained an emergency injunction that moved her from prison to a secure hospital.

Howard League Director Frances Crook commented:

“The number of women dying in state custody over the last 10 years is a shaming indictment of our penal system. Judges and magistrates must not send women into our already bulging jails when effective community sentences are readily available. With the present level of overcrowding in prisons, people can be condemned to an early death, despite the best efforts of over-stretched prison staff."

“The overall figure of 1,668 female deaths in custody since 1998 tell a story of neglect and violence, with suicides and deaths by apparent natural causes all at alarmingly high levels. Each one of these deaths should sit uncomfortably on the consciences of the authorities and the nation."

“We are concerned at the high levels of deaths in mental health hospitals, which we feel emphasises the need to improve provision for women in the community. Too many women with mental health needs spend time in the high security end of detention under the Mental Health Act, often unnecessarily and for too long."

“Our Lost Daughters campaign draws attention to the shocking number of women languishing in our prisons and aims put a stop to these unnecessary deaths.”

Prison custody is neither safe for women nor effective in cutting crime: 64.3% of women released from prison in 2004 were reconvicted within two years of release. The number of women in prison has increased by 60% over the past decade; the majority of sentenced women prisoners are held for non- violent offences.