Suffolk: Magistrates more likely to send women to prison in Suffolk than most other parts of the country
- Credit: PA
Magistrates are twice as likely to send women to prison in Suffolk than in some other parts of the country, a penal reform charity has warned.
Research released today by The Howard League for Penal Reform shows how sentencing rates for women vary across the country.
Their data has revealed that 1.6% of all female defendants in the county were given custodial sentences in 2011 – more than twice the rate of other areas in the country, including Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Northumbria and Wiltshire.
The figure rose slightly from 2001, up from 1.5%, which is also the current England and Wales average.
The research also showed 8.1% of female defendants in Suffolk were handed a community sentence, below the 9% national average, amid calls from the charity that more community sentences need to be imposed to improve rehabilitation.
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Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “We are concerned that it remains the case that a woman convicted of a non-violent offence is more likely to go to prison than a man.
“Women who find themselves in court often need a lot of support.
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“They are often victims of crimes themselves such as domestic abuse or pimping. Sending these women to prison for a few weeks is not the answer to the complex issues in their lives.
“We are concerned that legislation currently going through parliament may make the situation for women worse.
“The Offender Rehabilitation Bill extends short prison sentences with a year of supervision in the community but it is unclear how specialist services for women will survive as the government seeks to privatise probation using large regional contracts that will squeeze out small local providers.”
The annual meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Women in the Penal System was due to meet to discuss the issue today.