International Profile of Women's Prisons

Helen Fair
Publication Date: 

In July 2008 ICPS completed an International Profile of Women's Prisons and the provision of healthcare for women in prison, with ICPS Research Associate Helen Fair leading the research.

The review was jointly commissioned by the National Offender Management Service and Offender Health Unit in the Department of Health to inform the future design of women's prisons and support the development of policy on the provision of healthcare in women's prisons.

The findings have also been used to support considerations of the Working Group set up to consider Jean Corston's recommendation - in her independent review of women with particular vulnerabilities in the Criminal Justice System - on the provision of small, multi-functional custodial units for women.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Significant variations in the proportion of women to men imprisoned in different jurisdictions, from 3.7 per cent (France) to 9.1 per cent (United States).
  • Women in the different jurisdictions are imprisoned for similar crimes. Offences connected with illicit drugs are a major cause of women's imprisonment.
  • Countries have adopted different approaches to the question of how to provide for a small minority in a system designed for the majority male population.
  • In Denmark, where men and women prisoners live together, the basic approach is to approximate outside life as closely as possible.
  • How to deal with women prisoners' young children is resolved in different ways. Those countries that allow children to stay with their mothers (all the countries surveyed but only in one of the three US States) have very different ages at which it is felt desirable to take the child away.

The full report can be downloaded above

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