A CAMPAIGN group has called on the Government to abolish jailing women in a bid to crackdown on the number of deaths in prison.

Eleven women have died at HMP New Hall, the closest women's prison to Bradford, since 2007 and 94 female inmates have died across the country in the same amount of time.

INQUEST has published their Still Dying on the Inside report exploring the stories behind some of the women who have died in the eleven years since Baroness Corston published her ground-breaking review of women in the criminal justice system.

The group found 2016 was the deadliest year on record for both male and female prisoners after 346 deaths were recorded at jails.

Twenty two women died. Of these, 12 deaths were self-inflicted and seven were from natural causes.

Out of the 94 deaths of women in prison since 2007, 48 were deaths from natural causes.

The group has used the figures to put seven proposals to the Government, one of which would put an end to women being sent to prison if they broke the law.

The report states: "INQUEST's work has led us to the conclusion that prison should be abolished as a response to women who break the law, save for a minute and wholly unrepresentative micro-minority of women, who even then need a dramatically new form of intensive disposal and treatment."


Other proposals include re-directing resources from criminal justice to welfare, health and housing, putting a halt to building prisons, and ensuring there is a review of sentencing decisions.

Deborah Coles, executive director of INQUEST said: "While Ministers continue to drag their heels on the women’s justice strategy, which was due in 2017, women continue to die. Government must work across health, social care and justice departments to dismantle failing women’s prisons and invest in specialist women’s services."

Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, said: "“Sentences can have a hugely adverse impact on women themselves, for their families, in our communities, and finding alternative solutions for less serious offending for women is vital, including to prevent intergenerational crime into the future.

“The issues involved in reoffending are complex and we need to make sure we are together building on what we know works, making the right interventions where appropriate and providing the right support to women and their families at every stage in and out of the criminal justice system.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “The levels of suicide and self-harm in our prisons are far too high and we are taking urgent action to address this.

“We want to divert women from custody wherever possible and are working closely with other services including healthcare and housing to do that. Where this isn’t appropriate and prison is necessary - we want to provide high standards of care.

“We have already passed our target to recruit an additional 2,500 prison officers by the end of 2018 – this is crucial to give staff more time to support individual prisoners, including early mental health interventions.”