New figures reveal postcode lottery in imprisonment rates for women in England and Wales

Significant variations in imprisonment rates for women

Female symbol key in filing cabinet graphic

new analysis of police data published by the Prison Reform Trust has found significant variations in imprisonment rates for women between different police force areas in England and Wales. The average imprisonment rate for women in England is 30 per 100,000 head of population, and in Wales 48 per 100,000. The analysis found that the overall use of imprisonment for women in England and Wales rose by 5% between 2012 and 2017. However, there were significant geographical variations between different police force areas.

Cleveland has the highest imprisonment rate in England and Wales at 67 women per 100,000 head of population, and between 2012 and 2017 saw an increase of 22% in the use of immediate custody for women. Other areas with high imprisonment rates included Warwickshire, Suffolk and Dorset. By contrast, Greater Manchester, where there is a co-ordinated strategy focusing on women who come into contact with the justice system which involves the local authority, police diversion, and women's support services, as well as a problem solving court approach, has an imprisonment rate of 25 women per 100,000 head of population. Between 2012 and 2017 it saw a decrease of 33% in the use of immediate custody for women. The report highlights the fact that reductions in the use of imprisonment for women seen in Greater Manchester and other areas, such as Leicestershire and Avon and Somerset, give hope that similar results are possible if dedicated efforts are made to intervene early and tackle the problems that drive people into crime.

The analysis also revealed significant local variation in the numbers of women sentenced to prison sentences of less than 12 months. Between 2012 and 2017, Sussex saw a 41% decrease in the number of women given such sentences, while Suffolk saw an increase of 112%.

More information can be found here.