An inspection report of HMP Bronzefield has found that nearly two-thirds of women released from the prison do not have safe and long-term accommodation to go to. HMP Bronzefield is a women’s prison with around 500 people in custody.
The report also noted that due to not having somewhere to live, women were reluctant to leave prison. One had even slept in the gatehouse of the prison for two nights because she had nowhere else to go.
Women in prison
Many women in prison are particularly vulnerable, and when they leave prison into homelessness they are at risk of ending up in, or returning to, unsafe situations because they feel there is no other choice.
Less than half (47%) of women left prison with settled accommodation in the year to March 2022, women are imprisoned on average around 70 miles away from their home. Over half the women in prison report having suffered domestic violence with 53% of women reporting having experienced emotional, physical or sexual abuse as a child. As many as 80% of women in prison have a brain injury, most of which are the result of domestic abuse.
Campbell Robb, Nacro CEO, said: “The idea that there are women who are reluctant to leave prison due to a lack of safe housing is a heart-breaking failure. Nobody should leave prison without somewhere safe to live. The Government has committed to finding accommodation for women leaving prison for twelve weeks. But this report shows there needs to be support for long-term move on accommodation or we simply risk delaying homelessness, not ending it.
Alternatively, we can reduce the number of women leaving prison homeless by only sending women to prison when it’s absolutely necessary. Time spent in prison has been shown to badly affect women, with self-harm rates five times higher than in men’s prisons and 6 in 10 are a victim of domestic abuse. Most women are serving sentences of 12 months or less, with over 80% serving sentences for non-violent crimes. More women are imprisoned for shoplifting than any other offence with an average sentence length of only seven weeks. 17,000 children a year are affected by their mother going to prison, with around half ending up in care. When we know short sentences don’t work and the impact of prison on women is so severe, we should be asking why we are locking them up in the first place.”
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