SHOULD we stop sending women to prison? Eleven women have died at HMP New Hall, the closest women’s prison to Bradford, since 2007.

Nationally, 94 female inmates have died across the country in the past decade.

Levels of self-harm among the female prisoners are disproportionately higher than among men.

Women make up just five per cent of the total number of prisoners in England’s jails, but account for nearly a third of all self-harm cases.

There are wider implications too. Taking a mother away from her children can have a devastating impact on families. Every year more than 17,000 children become separated from their mother because she has been sent to prison. Sending a woman to jail punishes her kids. Why is that fair?

And for most women prison doesn’t seem to work. Half will be back inside within a year of getting out. If the aim of prison is to teach an offender a lesson it doesn’t seem to work.

But surely for some women there can be no alternative to a custodial sentence. Otherwise, what would the justice system have done with Rosemary West or Myra Hindley?

However, these women are a tiny minority. More than 80 per cent of women are sent to jail for non-violent crimes. For them, a non-custodial intervention might be a suitable alternative.

This is not a black-and-white issue – the problems are complex and challenging – but it is clear that something needs to be done because prison isn’t working.