Deaths of women

Deaths of women in prison throw the issues faced by women in the criminal justice system into sharp relief. Being the most extreme outcome of a system that has failed them in every way, the investigation and inquest process that follows offers the opportunity to examine the way women in the conflict with the law are treated and has uncovered some disturbing and ‘sadly familiar’ patterns. There have been 100 deaths of women in prison since 2002.

INQUEST’s research shows that the following issues are raised time and again:

• Histories of significant disadvantage and complex needs
• Inappropriate use of imprisonment given the offence
• Isolation from families
• Prisons unable to meet women’s complex needs
• Poor medical care and limited access to therapeutic services in prison
• Unsafe prison environments and cells

INQUEST’s 2013 report ‘Preventing the deaths of women in prison: the need for an alternative approach’ contains the stories of six women who died in prison between 2007 to 2013. The report highlights the underlying problems that remain despite the serious criticisms and raft of recommendations contained in the review of women’s imprisonment conducted by Baroness Corston in 2007. It also raises concerns that with the economic recession in the UK impacting disproportionately on women and cuts being made to crucial front line social and welfare services, it is likely that more women will be criminalised because of poverty and social inequality.

INQUEST also published a comprehensive report in 2008 'Dying on the Inside', which examined all self-inflicted deaths of women in prison between 1990 and 2007 in England & Wales.

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