chapter  8
19 Pages

Therapeutic practice with women in prisons and other secure settings Understanding the internal world of women in

ByJules Pearson

On 31 March 2009 there were 4,288 women in prison (Ministry of Justice 2010). The Prison Reform Trust (PRT 2009) reported that, in the past decade, the women’s prison population has increased by 60 per cent. Women prisoners have been found to have high levels of mental health needs (HMCIP 2007; Corston 2007; PRT 2009). Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMCIP 2007) found that women were more likely than other prisoners to report mental health and drug problems. Others have found that a high proportion of women score above threshold on the GHQ-12, a screening questionnaire for psychological distress (see Liebling et al. 2005; Plugge et al. 2006; HMCIP 2007). Moreover, a high proportion of women in prison have harmed themselves in the past: 37 per cent of women have stated that they have attempted suicide in their lifetime (PRT 2009) and 16 per cent have reported that they have harmed themselves in the month before coming to prison (Plugge et al. 2006). While they are in prison self-harm continues to be a problem that women face: female prisoners constitute 6 per cent of the total prison population yet they account for 46 per cent of incidents of self-harm (PRT 2009). Outside prison, more men than women commit suicide but, once incarcerated, this situation is reversed (Corston 2007). Many women prisoners have also suffered disrupted and traumatic life experiences. The PRT (2009) reports that one in four women prisoners have spent time in local authority care, over half have reported domestic violence and one in three have reported sexual abuse.