Socialist Worker

A system that makes women suffer

Issue No. 2306

Women account for almost half of the self-harm incidents in prison—even though only 5 percent of prisoners are women.

Rachel Halford, director of campaign group Women in Prison, spoke about the effect incarceration has on women.

She said, “They have no power, which mirrors their previous experiences of abuse and neglect.

“As a woman in prison told us, ‘Putting the blade in and watching the blood come down is the only time I can control something that’s happening in here and stop the pain’.”

A number of studies show that most women prisoners have experienced abuse, have serious mental health and addiction problems, and have a history of debt.

These are social problems that require support, not incarceration.

The consequences of locking these women up are devastating. For example there were six suicides at the Styal Women’s Prison in Cheshire during 2009 alone.

Over half of women in prison have not committed any violent crime but have been locked up for “financially motivated” crimes.

These are often in response to poverty and desperation.

Only a third of women prisoners who wanted help and advice about benefits and debt received it.

The human cost goes beyond those inside the prison walls.

Almost 18,000 children are separated from their mothers in prison every year.

More than 700 women were imprisoned over 100 miles from their home in 2009.

Only 5 percent of women prisoners’ children remain in the family home following their mother’s arrest.

Life in prison becomes a melting pot of all the ills of the capitalist system—and that includes its sexism.

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