London magistrates are sending more women to prison for short periods than any other area in England and Wales, the Howard League for Penal Reform revealed today (Friday 8 October).
The figures demonstrate that magistrates across all regions are sending excessive numbers of women to prison unnecessarily say campaigners, and the Howard League is calling upon magistrates to develop relationships with women's centres and probation so that they make better use of community options available to them.
The charity has conducted a review of national sentencing statistics that shows significant disparities in the sentencing of women. At the same time, London magistrates use community sentences for women less than any other region.
In 2008, London magistrates sentenced only seven per cent of women to community sentences compared to Yorkshire courts at 13 per cent and South East courts at 12 per cent. The numbers of women sentenced to a year or less in prison varied from 892 women in London to 187 in the North East.
Director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, Frances Crook said: “It is surprising that women in the south are being treated unfavourably against their northern counterparts. Greater effort must be made to ensure consistency and public safety, and this does not involve sending vulnerable women to prison for short periods of time.”
The Howard League research also revealed that crown courts had a much higher rate of sending women to prison for less than one year than magistrates.
Frances Crook, director of the Howard League for Penal Reform said, “It would seem that the courts are not recognising the needs of women. Women self-injure in prison at an alarming rate, cutting themselves and tying ligatures round their necks. There are some extraordinarily good women's centres that provide support to women so they can change their lives, make amends for the wrong they have done and desist from crime."
More than half of women in prison have been victims of domestic violence, a third have experienced sexual abuse, and 25 percent have been in care as children. Two-thirds of women in prison have dependent children under 18; of these, just one in 20 remain in their own home once their mother has been sentenced.