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Women's Prisons

Question for Ministry of Justice

UIN 155311, tabled on 19 February 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, if he will publish the Departmental modelling that led to the announcement of up to 500 new prison cells in women’s prisons; and what assessment his Department has made of the effect of those new cells on (a) women’s health and (b) child dependants.

Answered on

1 March 2021

Our prison population projections, published in November last year, show that the female prison population is projected to rise by around two-fifths by 2026 (1,300 women), with most of that rise coming in the next two years. Our projections took in to consideration the impact of the planned recruitment of a further 23,400 police officers.

Our projections further assumed the future gender composition of the prison population will be broadly consistent with the pre-COVID composition; however, there is a fair degree of uncertainty in this respect, not least because of the additional police recruitment. As such we modelled a total of four scenarios which included a 20% higher/lower throughput from the police and a fast court recovery scenario. Table 2.1 and 4.1 taken from our prison population projections, illustrate this below:

Table 2.1 below shows the two extra scenarios of a lower and a higher impact police scenario for both men and women.

Central

Lower Police Scenario

Higher Police Scenario

Fast Court Recovery

September 2020

79,235

79,235

79,235

79,235

September 2021

83,200

83,000

83,500

85,900

September 2022

88,100

87,200

89,100

88,600

September 2023

93,000

91,300

94,700

91,900

September 2024

96,000

93,800

98,300

94,900

September 2025

97,700

95,000

100,300

97,000

September 2026

98,700

95,900

101,600

98,400

All figures are rounded to the nearest hundred. Components may not sum due to rounding.

Table 4.1 below shows the projections separately for children, females over 18 years and males over 18.

Total

Children

Female 18+

Male 18+

September 2020

79,235

395

3,217

75,623

September 2021

83,200

600

3,800

78,900

September 2022

88,100

600

4,100

83,500

September 2023

93,000

700

4,300

88,100

September 2024

96,000

700

4,400

90,900

September 2025

97,700

700

4,500

92,500

September 2026

98,700

700

4,500

93,500

All figures are rounded to the nearest hundred. Components may not sum due to rounding.

Both tables are available at https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/prison-population-projections-2020-to-2026

Custody should remain the last resort for women. However, it would be wrong to not build these places in response to the projected population forecast as outlined above and would further not align with the requirements of our Female Offender Strategy. The expansion of the women’s estate will provide better conditions for those women who do require custody. It is our responsibility to ensure that those women in our custody are held in appropriate, decent and safe accommodation. The expansion of the female estate will be developed alongside parallel investment in community provision and services for women.

The changes in the Women’s Estate will increase the resettlement opportunities for women by providing greater access to open conditions and also provide valuable modern, purpose-built accommodation within the closed estate which will improve the custodial experience for women who are not assessed as suitable for open conditions. This will provide improved rehabilitation and better outcomes for women.

At the heart of our project is a gender-informed and trauma aware evidence base which recognises that family ties are particularly important for women in custody who are more likely to be primary carers. We intend to reduce the distance from home for some women, making it easier for family visits and access work opportunities relevant to the area in which they may be released/eventually reside. Both of these opportunities are proven to assist in reducing recidivism rates. Our design principles include requirements around ensuring suitable visiting spaces are provided in both open and closed developments, such as the potential inclusion of rooms to support overnight visits for mothers and their children.