Prison life leaves women vulnerable

Mental health problems among women in prison are at epidemic
levels. According to research published last week, 55 per cent of
women jailed for the first time were displaying symptoms of mental
health problems.

The report, by mental health and criminal justice agency Revolving
Doors, highlights the need for criminal justice staff, including
those in the courts and probation service, to receive training and
resources to identify vulnerable women with mental health problems.

It adds that women are still being jailed when a community service
sentence would be appropriate.

The report, based on the experiences of more than 2,200 women,
finds that mental health declines significantly during

Chief executive Crispin Truman said: “This study has highlighted
very high levels of need, which are in stark contrast to the
shortage of services for those in contact with the criminal justice

The report finds that 18 per cent of the women who had a mental
health problem had never received professional help or

It also suggests an over-reliance on prescription medication in the
prison system. Between 90 and 95 per cent of women detained in
Holloway Prison are on medication, whereas only one-third of women
are on medication for mental health problems when they enter

Worries about child care can also exacerbate poor mental

The report calls for a coherent strategy for supporting women in
the criminal justice system and for a review of using short-term
prison sentences for non-violent crimes.

Director of the Prison Reform Trust Juliet Lyon said: “Court
diversion schemes, mental health care in the community and, for the
minority, secure hospital accommodation would be more humane and
effective than locking up mentally ill women.”

– Bad Girls? Women, Mental Health and Criminal Justice
from 020 7242 9222

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