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Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

Why do women get sent to prison?

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Quite what so many short sentences (with prisoners spending a maximum of 13 weeks inside) achieve, given the disruption to the lives of women and their children, is very unclear to me.

Immediate custody

We already know that women are sentenced very differently from men:

  • Women are more likely to receive a caution.
  • They are more likely to be remanded in custody and then receive a non-custodial sentence.
  • They are also more likely to receive a short custodial sentence.

Recent data published by the MoJ in response to an Freedom of Information request gives us more detailed information.

The data refers to 5,156 women sentenced to immediate custody in 2014 (quarter two is not included because “some prisoners’ offence information was not supplied to Justice Statistics Analytical Services”).

Why are women sent to prison?

You can see that 40% of women are sent to prison for offences of theft or handling with a further 6% imprisoned for fraud or forgery.

15% of women are sent to prison for violent offences.

women offences

How long are women sent to prison for?

As you can see, almost three fifths (59%) of women are sent to prison for 6 months or less, with just one in twenty (5%) imprisoned for four years or longer.


women prisoners length of sentence

 

Quite what so many short sentences (with prisoners spending a maximum of 13 weeks inside) achieve, given the disruption to the lives of women and their children, is very unclear to me.

 

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2 Responses

  1. The stats may say this but the reality of why women get sentenced is very different. In fact there is much evidence that women get sentenced much harsher than men and are likely to be sent to prison for a first time offence or on remand than a man would be. A lot of this boils down to the attitude of the judiciary who as I am sure you are aware tend to be predominantly of a certain ethnicity, class and mind set. They tend to punish women for daring to step outside what they see as the role of women in society which is that lovely Nazi idea of womanhood and kinder kirche and kuche. The judge who gave me seven years for a non violent first time offence of not that great financial value made it very clear in his sentencing remarks that he was giving me the hefty sentence because I had hugely offended him for not staying home and popping babies

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience Cait. There does seem to be a wealth of research that women get sentenced either very leniently or very harshly and that much of this seems related to the sort of stereotypical attitudes you describe.

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