Our latest e-Bulletin, sent out on 29 October, 2021.
Outside of last night's event - A Woman's Place is not in Prison - a small group of trans activist bullies hurled racist and misogynistic abuse at the audience as it arrived.
Inside, hundreds of people, mostly women, many new to the subject, met to discuss women's imprisonment, in an event co-organised, earlier this week, by Woman's Place UK and the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, and chaired by the barrister Allison Bailey.
Opening the event, Charlie Weinberg, the Centre's chair of trustees, reminded us that when it comes to women's imprisonment, sex matters. For example, a high proportion of both male and female prisoners have head injuries, she told us. But in the case of female prisoners, these are disproportionately the result of domestic violence by an intimate partner; something that is not true of male prisoners.
Frances Crook, about to retire as Chief Executive of the Howard League, called for the abolition of imprisonment of women. Last year, she pointed out, only two women were sentenced to prison for over two years. There were, at most, a handful of women who might need to be held in secure settings on the grounds of public safety.
Lucy Baldwin of De Montfort University spoke movingly about the scandal of the imprisonment of pregnant women and those with young children. In 2021, she said, we have women giving birth to dead babies in prison cells. I have worked in criminal justice for over twenty years. I found Lucy's talk in particular difficult and painful to listen to.
Jo Phoenix of the Open University, and one of the Centre's trustees, said that imprisoned women were often sentenced according to the courts' assessment of them as mothers, wives, sisters and daughters. And she took head on the claim that to oppose the housing of male prisoners who identify as women in women's prisons makes one guilty of transphobia. It was about prioritising women's needs and rights, Jo said, something that the prison service systematically fails to do.
The Labour MP Rosie Duffield reminded us that most imprisoned women come from backgrounds of violence, abuse and poverty. It should not be a radical position in 2021, she said, to want to stop women being imprisoned for being poor.
Closing the event, Cátia Freitas of Woman's Place argued that sex matters for women because it is on the basis of sex, not gender identity, that women's bodies and labour are appropriated, and on the basis of sex that women are discriminated against. "We will win", she said.
I think she's right. The compassion and unity in the room was an antidote to the anger and divisiveness of the protestors outside. But more than that, it was another sign of a renewed and growing women's liberation movement, spearheaded by organisations such as Woman's Place UK and FiLiA, FairPlay for Women and Keep Prisons Single Sex.
My colleague Helen Mills and I will be discussing the sigificance of this event next week, in the latest edition of our regular review of criminal justice: 'Last month in criminal justice'. We'll be joined by one of the speakers, Jo Phoenix, and by Hannah Quirk from King's College London.
I hope to see you there.
We'll be joined by two guests at next week's second episode of 'Last month in criminal justice'. We're glad to have the expertise and input from Dr Hannah Quirk (Kings College London) and Professor Jo Phoenix (Open University), and Helen Mills and Richard Garside from the Centre. They will be discussing the Casey Review, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, party conference speeches, our joint event with Woman's Place UK this week on women's imprisonment and recent inspectorate reports and more TBC. The event is free but donations are welcome. We'd love to see you there, register now.
Fast approaching is our next 'Lunch with...' webinar. This time we'll be joined by Khatuna Tsintsadze. You might remember Khatuna for her co-written articles from the 'Critical Care' series or for her appearance on one of our 'After Strangeways' webinars we held earlier this year. Attendees were so enthused by Khatuna's appearance that we wanted to hear more from her about her career, the Zahid Mubarek Trust and thoughts on justice issues. Get your tickets here.
News and commentary
Last week's episode of 'Lunch with...Pragna Patel and Suresh Grover' was a fascinating exploration of anti-racist movements, policing, feminism, secularism and fundamentalism. If you're looking for commentary from two of our country's most prominent and respected figures in campaigning and advocacy, this is a must-see.
As you may know, we're part of a coalition to 'End Child Imprisonment' led by Carolyne Willow at Article 39. In our latest piece, Roger Grimshaw sets out the case for ending child imprisonment. There are so many worrying features of current child imprisonment, including: pain-inducing restraint, use of segregation and confinement, sexual abuse allegations. Why do such institutions still exist?
We tend to think that prisons are there forever. But Millbank is now the beautiful Tate Gallery and Holloway Women's Prison was closed down with a strong campaign to use the site for community good. Prison closure can and does happen. As part of our 'After Prison' project, we want to hear from you! Have an idea for what you'd like to see on your local prison site instead of a prison? Read this and get in touch.
An eye on criminal justice
Russell Webster's latest delve into the most recent Safety in Custody data has highlighted a massive 47 per cent rise in self-harm in the women's estate and eight per cent in the men's. He attributes (via Twitter discussion) the significant increase in self-harm amongst women in custody as potentially due to the reduced monitoring and reporting during the pandemic, and increased capacity to monitor after the lift in Covid-19 restrictions in prisons.
In the wake of the announcement of the Casey Review, it's been a dismaying time to see continual references to police sexual misconduct. The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) revealed this week that referrals for 'Abuse of Powers for Sexual Misconduct' make up the largest proportion of police corruption. This revelation comes during the same week another police officer was suspended for the alleged rape of a woman whilst off duty in the City of London. We will be discussing the Casey Review at next week's webinar, if you are interested in learning more about policing, misconduct and our thoughts on the task ahead.
Roger's article published yesterday on ending child imprisonment is a timely reminder that the imprisonment of children not only continues, when it should not, but that the establishments designed to imprison children are often not able to provide the minimum standards of care required. HM Inspectorate of Prisons, the Care Quality Commission and Ofsted published a damning review of Oakhill Secure Training Centre and issued an Urgent Notification. Run by G4S, the findings at Oakhill confirmed that children were spending up to 23 hours a day in their cells (though not anymore), that staff turnover was so high that relationship-building was difficult and that staff training was inadequate. This report comes after Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre, run by MTC Novo, was also found to be inadequate in its care of children. If you think it's time to end the imprisonment of children, keep in touch with the campaign here.
We'd like to take this opportunity to thank every one of you who has donated to us this year so far. Many of you who attend our webinars, read our research and peruse our commentary have donated and we're grateful for all donatins, large and small. If you like what we do, and can afford it, why not pitch in so we can continue?