HMP Send – A very effective women’s prison

Yes

HMP Send was a safe and decent prison which did excellent work to rehabilitate the women it held, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of an unannounced inspection of the women’s prison in Surrey.

HMP Send holds just over 280 convicted women prisoners, well over half of whom are serving long or indeterminate sentences for serious offences. Its last inspection was in 2011 and found a settled institution with an impressive regime for prisoners. This inspection found that improvement has continued and Send is now a very successful prison. It is one of the few prisons to achieve the highest grading for outcomes across all four healthy prison tests: safety, respect, purposeful activity and resettlement. An excellent range of interventions was offered to address offending behaviour, including a facility to address the needs of women with a personality disorder.

Inspectors were also pleased to find that:

  • Send was a very safe institution where violent incidents were very rare;
  • levels of self-harm continued to reduce and care for those who were vulnerable was good;
  • there was little evidence of significant illicit drug use;
  • women with alcohol issues received appropriate support;
  • living conditions and the environment were generally very good and relationships between staff and prisoners were particularly strong;
  • mental health provision was impressive;
  • prisoners had a good amount of time out of cell and reasonable access to the prison’s grounds;
  • learning and skills provision was well managed and there was sufficient education, training and work for all the women held; and
  • resettlement services were much better than inspectors usually see and offender management arrangements were good.

Inspectors felt that the promotion of equality and diversity required attention, although most outcomes were reasonable, and also thought support for women who had been victims of domestic violence should be improved. The incentives and earned privileges (IEP) arrangements supported the safety of the prison but some requirements, notably that the hoods be cut off women’s coats, were ridiculous.

Nick Hardwick said:

“We highlight a number of relatively minor concerns that will assist the prison, but overall this is an excellent report that describes the work of a very effective prison. Women, some of whom are dealing with long sentences and considerable personal challenges and risks, are kept safely and in a prison that affords them respect. They use their time usefully and their risks are addressed meaningfully. This is not only a good prison; it is a useful and effective prison. The governor and staff should be congratulated on their success.”

A copy of the report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 3 June 2014 at: http://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons

CALL FOR MORE HELP FOR WOMEN PRISONERS


On 13.09.11. Jonathan Aitken (ex-Cabinet Minister, Ex-MP, Ex-Prisoner) chaired an event in London, hosted by the Women’s Resource Centre and Garden Court Chambers that featured short contributions from the principal speakers including Imran Khan, Mark Johnson and Eoin McLennan Murray. This opened up to a Question and Answer session from the audience, featuring questions sent in from women serving prison sentences.

At the end of the evening a motion was put to vote by a show of hands.

“We ask the Government to give higher priority to and address the specific resettlement, rehabilitation and re-offending issues which women face within the Criminal Justice System.”

This motion was passed unanimously and we now call upon the Justice Secretary to act upon this motion as a matter of urgency and whilst the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill (LASPO) is being debated in Parliament. This motion is now an on-line petition, please add your voice.

On October 11th 2011, this Bill is back before the House of Commons and a group of cross party MPs who are strong advocates of women’s rights will propose this as an amendment to LASPO based on the following:

We, the undersigned, call on Ken Clarke, Justice Secretary to address the gender based issues of females re offending as a matter of urgency, in the passage of Legal Aid and Sentencing Bill 2011 including:

To address the mental health needs of female defendants, for diversion into community based services to deal with lifelong trauma, discrimination and victimisation. 67% of women in prison have at least one identifiable mental disorder. Diversion was promised as a joint initiative with the Department of Health in April 2011, not enough has been done to effect change or policy.

To provide safe bail accommodation.
Over half of women entering custody each year do so on remand. These women spend an average of four to six weeks in prison and nearly 60% do not go on to receive a custodial sentence. We call on the Justice Secretary to deliver funding , the need for which has been identified by the Women’s Justice Task Force and the Magistrates’ Association, to provide alternatives to remand for Magistrates when considering defendants’ Bail Applications.

To put an end to disproportionately punitive sentencing for female defendants.
In the last decade the women’s prison population has gone up by 33%. In 1995 the mid-year female prison population was 1,979. In 2000 it stood at 3,355 and in 2007 it was 4,283. Today it is 4,800. Most women serve very short sentences. In 2009 61% were sentenced to custody for six months or less. 27% of women in prison had no previous convictions – more than double the figure for men

To stop punishing children of low level female offenders. 66% of women prisoners are mothers, and each year it is estimated that more than 17,700 children are separated from their mothers by imprisonment. 37% of women lose all their possessions and their homes whilst they are in prison, they are more likely to be locked up for low level, non violent crimes than men. Prison should be the last resort.

To consider the economic impact of incarcerating women.
The cost of keeping a woman in custody is in excess of £56 000 per year. The average cost of a community sentence is £750 – £1000. Community Sentences have consistently delivered better outcomes in reducing reoffending in women. The long term cost to society of a woman with a one year prison sentence is over £10 million over ten years.

To stop putting women in prison for breach and adding punitive fines and sentences in the case of breach. For breach of a rehabilitation order they can currently be fined a maximum £1,000. Clause 56 of the LASPO increases the maximum fine to £2,500.
Thanks for considering this.
Salaams / shalom