Breaking the silence: Listening to women in criminal justice

Date: 
Wednesday, 16 December, 2015

The traumatic personal experiences of criminalised people often go unnoticed. Their experiences are ignored; their needs minimised; their support and treatment an afterthought.

Through the publication of short articles, the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies are providing a space for women's voices to be heard. Madeline Petrillo, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Portsmouth, is helping to share their stories. She is using their own words where possible as recorded in a series of interviews for a project examining women’s pathways to desistance from crime. All names and other identifying information have been changed.

Click on the names below to read women's stories:

  • Alice: 'I wish that I could be like normal people'
  • Rosie: 'You get plenty of punishment'
  • Lynne: 'I've the body of a woman but inside I feel like a child'

Commenting on the imminent closure of Holloway prison, Rebecca Roberts and Claire Cain have called for a managed reduction in the prison population:

The women who end up in prison often have personal histories of poverty, trauma, neglect, abuse, mental health issues and violence, (as revealed in the Breaking the Silence comment series). We need to be mindful of, and informed by, these experiences, but resist the temptation to individualise the issues. Women need specialist support to help them move forward. This is also about understanding the wider social contexts and working to create mechanisms to empower women to take control of their lives.

The current system is broken and beyond repair. Criminal justice cannot be fixed. It is part of the problem.

It is time to abandon the already tested and failed systems of punishment and control that reinforce and compound trauma, inequality and harm. Close Holloway? Absolutely, but we also need to implement reforms that lead to the long-term reduction and abolition of the prison system as it exists today.