UK: Howard League for Penal Reform urges Blair Govt to close women's prisons Print E-mail

 Edinburgh -- Wednesday 2 August 2006


Two police officers stand guard at a prison in Scotland in a 2003 file photo. The government should begin closing women's prisons because the majority of female offenders are convicted of non-violent offences and could be treated in the community, a charity said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Jeff J Mitchell

Call for women's prisons to be closed

LONDON (Reuters) - The government should begin closing women's prisons because the majority of female offenders are convicted of non-violent offences and could be treated in the community, a charity said on Wednesday.

The Howard League for Penal Reform urged the government to think radically about how to deal with female offenders because under the current system, two thirds of women released from prison are reconvicted within two years.

It also said the current system failed to keep women prisoners safe and did not meet their rehabilitation needs.

Frances Cook, director of the charity, called for "a properly planned closure programme for women's prisons" and "the transfer of resources to community... projects that meet women's needs and, unlike prison, do successfully reduce re-offending."

Cook said only those who pose a danger to the public should remain in custody.

"The vast majority can be managed safely in the community where they can make amends for their offending and help to heal the damage done by crime."

The group looked into the impact that imprisonment has on women, girls and their families.

The women's prison population in England and Wales increased by 147 percent from 1994 to 2004, the charity said. Some 4,600 woman and girls are currently in prison.

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