Young women in prison have experienced disproportionate levels of rejection and suffering - often by people in their life that they should have been able to rely on. These experiences have a huge impact on their behaviour, their understanding of themselves and what they feel they have to offer society.
Reoffending rates in the UK are high; 48% of women released from prison reoffend in their first year of release.
Through our work we have seen that young women in prison are in desperate need of caring and supportive role models, new skills, new opportunities and new aspirations in order to move forward into a positive future and stay out of prison. This is largely due to the complex and traumatic pasts that they have lived through. For example;
• 31% of women in prison were taken into care as a child,
• 53% of women in prison reported experiencing emotional, physical or sexual abuse as a child (compared to 27% of men)
• 46% of women in prison report having suffered a history of domestic abuse.
• Around 40% of women in prison left school before age 16 – 10% before the age of 13
• 30% were permanently excluded from school (compared with 1% of the general population).
These experiences mean that many women in prison have often fallen behind in a number of areas of life, including education and skills, and have very low confidence and self esteem – which leaves them stuck in cycles of re-offending without any hope or real prospects away from a life of crime.
Young women in prison can be difficult to engage - their behaviour is often the most challenging of the prison population, they have the highest levels of self-harm, attempted suicide and mental health needs and as a result they can end up missing out on opportunities available to them.
We have found that building positive, trusting relationships with young women while they are in prison is key to being able to offer them support upon their release. If that trusting relationship is not there, it is difficult to maintain ties with them when they are back in the community.
For latest resources and key facts about the female prison population, we would recommend you visit the Women in Prison charity's website.