21/12/2018 14:52 GMT

Number Of Women Recalled To Prison More Than Doubles Since Government Reforms Introduced

The Prison Reform Trust is concerned that women are currently being "set up to fail" when they leave following short prison sentences which can turn their lives upside down.

The number of women ex-prisoners who have been sent back to jail for breaching probation rules has more than doubled in three years.

More than 1,700 women across England and Wales were recalled to prison last year, after government reforms were introduced in 2015 to provide 12-month rehabilitation on release for people who serve short sentences.

The Prison Reform Trust (PRT), who released the figures, say women are being “trapped in the justice system”.

Most women returned within days of being released despite the government measures, which were introduced to help short-term inmates rebuild their lives.

This is compared to 22% more men being recalled last year under the measures, which the PRT say are making things worse.

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The Broken Trust report found the threat of being sent back to prison led to tension between women and probation officers who supervise them in the community following their release.

Reasons for recall can include someone losing contact with their probation officer, a perceived rise in the risk of a person committing serious harm, or a risk of reoffending.

Women were often reluctant to tell their responsible officers about potential issues for fear of being recalled, the report found.

It comes against a backdrop of depleted support services which mean probation officers are left to deal with problems including substance addiction, mental illness and coercive relationships.

Women – who are mostly sent to prison for non-violent offences – make up 5% of the prison population, with three in four jailed for less than 12 months last year.

Some 19 out of 24 women featured in the report felt they received no support to address their problems, with some saying they had been set up to fail.

They will send me out to no housing. It’s a big, ‘recall me’ sign on my foreheadA woman featured in the PRT report

The same number said housing was the biggest problem, with 10 of them experiencing homelessness while under supervision.

“Being a woman homeless is so degrading. They will send me out to no housing. It’s a big, ‘recall me’ sign on my forehead,” one woman told the report. 

“I have no excitement about going out. I got no place to go and an ex-partner who is very violent.”

The trust is now calling for the government to scrap the extension of mandatory supervision to those serving short prison sentences, and instead set up a national network of community services targeted to women.

Jenny Earle, of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “The government was warned before it extended mandatory post-custody supervision to people serving short prison sentences, that without adequate support in the community, women in particular would be set up to fail.

“Short prison sentences remain destructive and ineffective, as women can lose their home, their job, and even their children.

“This report shows that rather than getting the support they need, as a result of these changes many women risk becoming trapped in the justice system. This policy has failed, the government should end it once and for all.”