PAS’ Work with Cisgendered Women Prisoners and Dedicated Freephone Number
(This page highlights our work with cisgendered women. Trans men and women prisoners seeking information should visit our, “Prisoners Who Are LGBT+” page, here.)
On 6 January, 2023, there were 3,136 women in prison in England and Wales. There were 4,951 receptions of women into prison in the year to June 2022, either on remand or to serve a sentence. (Prison Reform Trust; Factfile January 2023)
Consistently, 7% of all calls to PAS’ Advice Line come from women, who constitute only 4% of the prison population as a whole. This equates to some 2,272 calls in 2022-23.
In addition to our core Advice Line service for all prisoners, PAS operates a Freephone Service for women prisoners, the number of which is cleared in all women’s prisons. This service is available on Tuesday mornings between 10am and 12.30pm on 0800 024 6205.
As well as all of the Prison Law advice required by men – including adjudications, categorisation, parole, release on license, recall, discrimination and healthcare – 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.
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 their legal and human rights be properly acknowledged and, even though they are imprisoned, that 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. 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.
There are 12 women’s prisons in England and none in Wales:
Askham Grange in Yorkshire
Bronzefield in Middlesex
Downview in Surrey
Drake Hall in Staffordshire
East Sutton Park in Kent
Eastwood Park in South Gloucestershire
Foston Hall in Derbyshire
Low Newton in County Durham
New Hall in West Yorkshire
Peterborough in Cambridgeshire
Send in Surrey
Styal in Cheshire
Links & Resources
PAS Family Law Guides (in association with Rights of Women):
- Children and the Law: When Social Services are Involved
- Children and the Law: Adoption for Women Prisoners
- Children and the Law: Parental Responsibility
- Children and the Law: When Families Cannot Agree
PAS Self Help Toolkits
PAS Information Sheet