Focus: Policy and Politics - Question Time - Frances Crook, Howard League for Penal Reform

TELL US ABOUT YOUR PROPOSALS FOR WOMEN'S PRISONS

We are calling on the Government to institute a planned programme of closure of women's prisons. You have to restrict the supply of prison places so the courts simply cannot send women to prison.

WHAT'S WRONG WITH WOMEN'S PRISONS?

Women's prisons are places of abject misery. Most women are not dangerous and don't need to be in prison. A tiny minority of women commit serious and violent offences, but the overwhelming majority are either on remand and haven't been convicted of anything yet or are sentenced to very short periods for minor offences that could be dealt with in the community.

WHAT ARE THE ALTERNATIVES?

There is a wide range of community-based alternatives. The problem in the past has been that there are a lot of very good schemes in the community, but they tend to be designed for men because men commit most crimes. So we would have to set up and put resources into programmes for women.

WHAT SORT OF RESPONSES HAVE YOU RECEIVED?

I have been amazed at the vitriol this suggestion has generated. People have been saying women should not be treated differently. That's nonsense.

It's not appropriate to have, for example, groups with 18 men and one woman talking about their offending behaviour. That woman might want to talk about how she was forced on to the game, for instance, and it's not appropriate to do so in a male-dominated environment.

HOW ARE YOU KEEPING POLITICIANS UP TO DATE WITH THE BIG ISSUES?

We have launched our regular Prison Information Bulletin for parliamentarians.

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