PAS’ Work with Women Prisoners
On 6 December 2019, there were 3,783 women in prison in England and Wales. There were 7,278 receptions of women into prison in the year to June 2019, either on remand or to serve a sentence. (Prison Reform Trust; Autumn Factfile 2018)
Women require specialist attention in prison because around two thirds have dependent children and many have, themselves, been the victims of crime and abuse. Women are subject to short custodial sentences for minor crimes such as Council Tax evasion or shoplifting. These can have disproportionately catastrophic consequences, causing women to lose their homes and jobs – or, worse, have children taken into care or permanently adopted. In addition, with so few women’s prisons in England and Wales, women are often incarcerated hundreds of miles from home and family.
In 2019-20, 8% of all calls to PAS’ Advice Line were from women, who constitute 5% of the prison population as a whole. Often the Article 8 rights (of the European Convention on Human Rights) of the women and their children to a “private and family life” are ignored. Furthermore, women with children over the age of 16 are frequently denied Childcare Resettlement Leave, despite the fact that only persons over 18 are permitted to attend prison unaccompanied by an adult.
The desired outcome of our work with women is that, even though they are imprisoned, mothers are able to assert their legal rights in relation to their children and engage effectively in Family Law proceedings. We aim to reduce the separation of children permanently or temporarily from their families and to help mothers to secure better long-term living arrangements for their children during their imprisonment. This in turn will enable them to maintain as active a role as possible in their children’s lives, enhancing mental health. We also ensure that, where possible, mothers being released from prison are housed with their children.
Over the course of 2019-20, PAS’ Women Prisoners’ Caseworker delivered 42 Outreach Clinics in six women’s prisons: HMPs Downview, Send and Bronzefield (all in Surrey), New Hall (in West Yorkshire), Styal (in Cheshire) and – for older female prisoners – Eastwood Park (in Gloucestershire). 356 women prisoners were seen one-to-one by a PAS Caseworker at Outreach Clinics and 24 cases were opened on behalf of women prisoners whose situations would benefit from such an action. For women prisoners making use of PAS’ Prison and Family Law advice, there is a better chance of maintaining good mental health and of lowering delinquency and truancy rates amongst their children.
In February 2018, PAS, alongside representatives from organisations with legal expertise, Centre for Criminal Appeals, Centre for Women’s Justice, The Howard League for Penal Reform and Rights of Women, and from voluntary organisations, Prison Reform Trust, Women in Prison and The Fawcett Society, established a Women Prisoners’ Justice Group (WPJG). You can find more information here.
Links & Resources
- PAS Family Law Guides (in association with Rights of Women):
- Children and the Law: When Families Cannot Agree
- Children and the Law: Parental Responsibility
- Children and the Law: Adoption for Women Prisoners
- Children and the Law: When Social Services are Involved
- PAS Self Help Toolkits
- Mother and Baby Units Self Help Toolkit
- PAS Information Sheet
- Categorisation Women