Who we are
The criminal justice system is failing women. Women in Prison supports women to avoid and exit the criminal justice system and campaigns for the radical changes needed to deliver support services and justice for women.
Our vision is of a world without women's prisons. A world where the abuse, marginalisation and poverty at the root of so much of women's offending is addressed before women come into contact with the criminal justice system.
We aim to prevent the marginalisation of women and limit the damage and disruption caused through contact with the criminal justice system to women and their families by:
- Campaigning for a system that responds to the specific needs of women;
- Providing specialist support services by women for women enabling them to make informed choices in both custody and the community;
- Promoting alternatives to custody wherever possible.
Women that pose no risk to the public should not be in prison. For the very few where prison is deemed absolutely necessary, women should be incarcerated in specially designed small units, close to the communities in which they live.
While women affected by the criminal justice system are one of the most excluded groups in society, they are in the best position to lead efforts to change their situation. Therefore, WIP places women at the centre of its work and our purpose is to be a vehicle for the voices of women affected by the criminal justice system.
Why only women?
Women in Prison is a women-only organisation. This means that all staff and volunteers are women. We provide women-only services and campaign for a recognition and response to the distinct needs of women affected by the criminal justice system.
The previous life experiences of women prisoners and ex-prisoners make the need for women-only spaces and services more acute. The lives of women in prison are often characterised by sexual abuse, gender-based violence, mental illness, poverty, educational under-attainment, poor housing and substance misuse. These experiences are compounded by experiences of prison - a system based on disempowerment and control.
Experience shows that women-only support is necessary to provide a safe, positive and empowering response to the discrimination and inequality women experience in the criminal justice system and throughout their lives.
Achieving equality does not mean treating everyone exactly the same; equality of experience and outcomes sometimes require diversity of provision. Programmes to support prisoners’ resettlement will disadvantage women if they do not respond to the distinct root causes of women’s offending.
What about men? Aren't the issues the same for them? Don't they need support too?
Our entire criminal justice system needs transforming, for all age groups and genders; we are passionate about more community support and a reduction in custody for all groups. Men make up around 95% of the prison population in the UK. This means that the majority of voluntary sector organisations working in the criminal justice system already provide excellent support for men. Men and women in prison share many characteristics. However, as a minority group, we believe women require some attention so that their gender-specific needs are also taken into account. Therefore, unlike most organisations, our focus is on women only. The support we provide and the changes we campaign for are focused on women's specific needs and circumstances. Sadly, in spite of recent developments (see Research Hub section and read Reports), the criminal justice system still fails to recognise the distinct needs of women and address the root causes of women's offending. This causes further damage to the lives of women and their families.