I note that the last time I posted in memory of Pauline Campbell was in 2010, so has everything improved for vulnerable women who end up in our appalling institutions? Pauline died in 2008 still grieving for the daughter she lost in Styal Prison. Before that she would mount a campaign outside the prisons where another woman had died while in the “safe keeping” of HMP. In an article in the Observer a former governor of Styal Prison comments.
Why are so many women is prison? Pauline continually made that point as she stood outside prison gates. She would stop the privatised prison van from entering and ended up being assaulted by burly police and security officers.
Prisons? A euphemism for human dustbins and a convenience for the inhuman uncaring society we have become for avoiding dealing with need. Mental health, poverty, victims of abuse. The throw away society does not exclude the people that we expect it to protect.
These are the words of the recently retired governor:
“He said that many judges and magistrates he had spoken to ‘acknowledged that many of these women did not require a custodial sentence but then ask: ‘What else can we do with them?” Chatterton is calling for a ‘warts-and-all review of the aims and intent of the use of custody’; an immediate end to short sentences; more women to be transferred to secure mental health units where they can receive the right care; and alternatives to prison that could be funded by the ‘huge’ savings that would be derived from not jailing the third of women currently imprisoned for minor offences.
‘I have never come across such a concentration of damaged, fragile and complex-needs individuals,’ states Chatterton in his letter. He says half of the women in his former prison should never have been sent there and giving short sentences to vulnerable women or mothers is damaging and self-defeating. He cites one woman jailed for 12 days for stealing a £3 sandwich and another who took a £12 bottle of champagne from an off licence but whose 10-day sentence was spent ill in hospital guarded by two prison officers.
Chatterton describes the levels of self harm among women prisoners as “frankly staggering” and said: “I have first-hand experience of the devastating impact both to the family unit and society as a whole when a woman is sent to prison … homes are lost and then various agencies become involved in attempts to rehouse, kids go into care and so forth, it is vicious, costly and traumatising.’ ”