Record levels of self-harm show women's prisons are in crisis

April 29, 2021 4:50 PM

Wera Hobhouse (Wera Hobhouse)"Our prisons are in crisis. The amount of self-harm, especially in women's prisons, is shockingly high and rising.

"Far too many women are sent to prison on short sentences for non-violent offences. In many cases these women have been victims of abuse and have suffered trauma which has led them into a life of disadvantage and low level crime, but many also have caring responsibilities," says Wera Hobhouse MP, Justice Spokespersonin Parliament for the Liberal Democrats .

"Being in prison will set off the next round of trauma and disadvantage for those that depend on them. We have to break this destructive circle.

"Women should only be sent to prison where absolutely necessary: for the most serious crimes, or where they pose a threat to the public. Effective community-based sentences would be far better to stop re-offending, and far less damaging for the people involved."

The Liberal Democrats are calling for greater use of effective community sentences for women instead of prison, as new figures reveal that self-harm by women prisoners reached a new record high in 2020.

The latest Ministry of Justice statistics show that there were 11,988 incidents of self-harm in women's prisons in 2020 - almost double the number in 2013 (6,014).

It means a rate of 3,566 self-harm incidents per 1,000 prisoners - the highest on record and more than six times the rate among male prisoners (566 per 1,000).

Last year, Liberal Democrat MP Daisy Cooper tabled a Private Members' Bill - the Sentencing (Women) Bill - that would ensure women offenders are given community sentences, unless they have committed a serious or violent offence and pose a threat to the public.