The Howard League for Penal Reform has urged magistrates and crown
courts to avoid sending women to prison after Mandy Pearson became
the 12th woman to have taken her own life in prison this year,
writes Clare Jerrom.
Pearson committed suicide in New Hall prison this week having
been sentenced to just a five months in prison.
“Thousands of women with serious mental health and
addiction problems are sent to prison every year when they should
be given treatment instead,” said Frances Crook, director of
the Howard League for Penal Reform.
“It is time for sentencers to take responsibility for
|Petra Blanksby, who killed herself
in November 2003
r decisions. Prisons are not safe for women,” she
According to campaign group INQUEST, 12 women have taken their
own lives this year. In 2003, there were 14 self-inflicted deaths
of women in prisons – which was a 64 per cent rise on the
Deborah Coles, co-director of INQUEST, said: “These deaths
are an indictment of a criminal justice system that uses prison as
a dumping ground for some of the most vulnerable people in society
and raises serious concerns about the systemic failings of the
prison service and their ability to keep women in their custody
At a briefing at the House of Commons last night for
Community Care’s ‘Back on Track’
campaign, Peter Blanksby called on government to ensure that women
with mental health problems are not sent to prison.
His daughter Petra (pictured) died in November 2003. She was in
New Hall prison on remand for arson for trying to kill herself by
setting her bedroom alight. She had self-harmed 92 occasions during
the 130 days she spent in prison.
Community Care’s campaign is calling for a
reduction in the number of incidents of self-harm and suicides in
prison through greater involvement of social workers and by the
removal from custody of vulnerable people with mental health