Incarceration of Women in Britain: A Matter of Madness
This chapter examines the history of ideas about madness, mental illness, and mental health that have informed the perception, treatment, and control of prisoners, particularly women prisoners, in Britain. Feminist scholars have convincingly argued that women prisoners are subject to the language and ideas of psychiatry more than their male counterparts. The chapter aims to shift understanding of women's incarceration away from their criminal identity toward their health needs. It explores how an understanding of women's mental health care needs might be used to improve, rather than simply control, the lives of incarcerated women. Recent public health policy focuses on the need for healthy prisons. The harmful effects of imprisonment are compounded by the fact that programs for female prisoners have tended to focus on women's psychology to reframe issues of unequal power relations, poverty, and violence as problems rooted in the individual.