MP for Ogmore, Chris Elmore, led a debate in Westminster Hall this week concerning the pressures faced by women leaving prison. He called on the UK Government to improve rehabilitation so that women could be “free from homelessness, poverty and reconviction” upon being released.
Today, in the UK, there are over 4,000 women in prison – a figure which has doubled in the past 20 years. 48% of women are re-convicted within a year of leaving prison.
Such issues – which often result in re-offending – include: addiction, homelessness, unemployment, relationship breakdown, financial difficulties, domestic violence and mental health problems.
As part of the debate, Mr Elmore said: “Women leaving prison will always face some difficulty in readjusting, but the complexities they face under this Government are not necessary. It is not right and it is not inevitable that women, on their release from prison should be left homeless and destitute. It is not right that they should be deprived of safe and secure employment, access to social security, and support. And it is not right that, by virtue of this Government’s neglect of facilities, they are forced into a community hundreds of miles from their family.”
Staggeringly, there are only 12 women’s prisons across England and Scotland, with no provision at all in Wales. This can cause a significant level of family upheaval: 17,000 children are currently separated from their mothers with Welsh children having to travel at least as far as Gloucestershire to attend visit. Fewer than 10% of these children are being cared for by their fathers.
Upon release, some ex-prisoners must live in approved properties as a license condition. These are single-sex establishments and whilst there are 94 locations across England and Wales, there are only six for women.