In October 2005 the British prison population stood at (another) new high of 77,774; and of this number 4,621 were females (National Offender Management Service data). So it is clear that that women make up only a small percentage of those imprisoned – roughly 6 per cent. However, the rate of female imprisonment has risen quite dramatically in recent years. The number of women in prison has risen


by 175 per cent since 1992 – while the corresponding figures for men during the same period is 50 per cent (Roxanne Escobales, Guardian, 12 March 2004). This new trend has led to claims by criminologists, the media and politicians alike that society is now faced with a ‘new female criminal’; and there has been close to a moral panic surrounding the dawn of the ‘laddette’ – the violent female girl gang member who can be just as dangerous as her male counterpart.