Women in Prison - The Real Story
Real Life Drama
G wing at Larkhall is not an easy place to be. Prisoners have to work out who to trust, who they should avoid and who not to cross. They need to develop relationships with staff which help them to get what they need, but have to be careful about getting too friendly or they risk being seen as a grass. Staff have to develop relationships with prisoners which enable them to help with resettlement and maintain security, but they have to avoid getting too personally involved like Di Barker, stereotyping all prisoners like Sylvia Hollamby or abusing their position like Jim Fenner. All these dilemmas face prisoners and prison staff in prisons throughout the country.
What makes women's prisons such tense and difficult places is not only what happens inside the prison, but all that is going on in women's lives outside both before and during their time in prison. Most men with families who are sent to prison can expect their female partners to look after the children, pay the rent or mortgage and bills and visit while they are in prison. Most women cannot rely on partners to look after all these things. Many are single parents and they stand to lose their accommodation as well as their children while they are in custody.
Obviously women who have committed crime need to be dealt with by the criminal justice system, and it would be unfair if they were treated very differently from men. The rapid increase in the women's prison population is a real cause for concern though. Locking up women has effects far beyond the prison gates because women still play such a major role as carers for children and elderly and disabled relatives. There are also so many women in prison for whom it is clearly not the right place - such as women suffering from serious mental health problems, or those waiting on remand who will not be sent to prison when the court has heard their case.
For further information on the issues covered in this section, please visit The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies website.