Howard League blog · 18 Feb 2021
Add your voice to the Stop Building Women’s Prisons campaign
The response to our call for action to put a stop to building more women’s prisons has been overwhelming – thank you everyone. More than 100 MPs have been emailed and many of them by several constituents. If you have not yet contacted your MP with information about why building more prisons for women is wrong, please join the campaign.
I have seen some of the replies from MPs and I thought it might be useful to debunk some of the arguments they are parroting from the government.
The government is claiming that the extra places will include a shower. My argument to that is that you don’t need to have lots of extra prison cells in order to get women a shower. If existing prisons are so shabby and poorly managed that women cannot keep clean, then sort them out or close them down.
The second argument is that women who are nearing the end of their sentence can have their children come to spend the night in the prison with them. No small child should spend the night in prison. If a woman is preparing for release, she should go home on temporary release weekends, which has been the system for decades and helps to resettle women (and men) back into their families and their communities.
We want to see the £150m spent on community services that will help women escape domestic violence and abuse, get safe and decent housing and deal with any mental health or addiction challenges they face
MPs from all parties are saying that they want to avoid women going to prison and that they support investment in women’s community services, all of which is very encouraging. The problem comes in trying to pin them down to oppose the building of more prison cells. All the evidence shows that more cells means more prisoners. In fact, prisons get filled up before they are even built as it is the message to the courts that counts. Once filled, prisons are with us for generations. These new cells could house many thousands of women for the next hundred years – women who don’t need to be in prison in the first place.
Women are self-injuring more and more in prisons. The latest figures published by the Ministry of Justice show that women are so desperate and miserable in prisons that they are cutting themselves more every day. The last thing that we need now is more of the same.
We want to see the £150m spent on community services that will help women escape domestic violence and abuse, get safe and decent housing and deal with any mental health or addiction challenges they face. That is the way to reduce crime, create safer communities and protect victims.