Many women prisoners are killing themselves because they are unable to cope with harsh prison conditions and the Inquest Report on Giles’ death found that “Punishing women with severe mental problems by incarcerating them in such alienating conditions were cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment." (Morris, 2007). These women were subject to rigid punitive measures, without concern for their drug and mental health-related problems. for example, one woman was formally punished after she was cut down while trying to hang herself. (www.news.bbc.co.uk).
The number of women offenders in the UK has increased, in 2003, the number of women prisoners in UK prisons was pegged at 4500, registering an increase from approximately 1500 in 1993 and women now make up 6% of the population. (www.guardian.co.uk). However, there are fewer prisons for women, as a result, women may be imprisoned far away from their families, which may hinder the efforts to reduce their rates of reoffending since family contact is a key element in bringing about reduced reoffending. Women are sent to prison on very short term prison sentences, which renders them homeless and unemployed but does not effectively address their reasons for offending, with the net result that more than half of the women offenders tend to offend again. In addition, 18,000 children of these prison women are separated from their mothers and 95% of them are moved away from their family homes, as a result of which there is more disruption caused in the lives of both the children and the women and this further hampers the prevention of re-offending in these women.(www.womeninlondon.org.uk).
A report published by the Fawcett Society shows that prisons may not be appropriate for women because they may do better in women only, community-based centers. This report recommends that community sentences should be used more in the case of women, rather than sending them to prison with men criminals, because this serves to better meet their needs.