Women's prison set to become male-only
FEMALE prisoners could be at more risk of self-harm if they are shunted around the system, penal reformers have warned.The comments have been made in the wake of a decision to revert a Suffolk jail into a male-only establishment.
FEMALE prisoners could be at more risk of self-harm if they are shunted around the system, penal reformers have warned.
The comments have been made in the wake of a decision to revert a Suffolk jail into a male-only establishment.
Despite considerable recent investment, prison service chiefs have announced Edmunds Hill Prison will only accommodate male inmates from later this year – prompting the move of more than 300 women inmates currently serving there.
It comes just months after the prison – home of notorious child killer Myra Hindley before her death in 2002 – was given its own name to separate it from Highpoint – the main men's prison next door.
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A spokesman for the prison service said the decision was taken due to population pressures on male prisons, which have recently been described as "bursting at the seams".
But Anita Dockley, assistant director of The Howard League for Penal Reform, believed the move could lead to an increase in female inmates harming themselves.
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She said: "We are concerned about the overall impact of this decision and the welfare of the women.
"Being moved around the system will make them increasingly vulnerable and the rate of self-harm could increase as they lose relationships formed inside the prison while some will be moving further away from their families.
"We are very concerned about the expansion of the prison population and that female inmates could be shunted around the system a long way from home.
"A lot of effort has gone into making Edmunds Hill work for the women and now they will have to start again."
However, the prison service said the decision meant some prisoners would be closer to their families.
A spokesman: "Female prisoners will be moved to other prisons within the existing prison estate.
"In deciding the most appropriate alternative location to place these prisoners, we will look at their needs in terms of proximity to home and their personal circumstances."
The spokesman said the expected rise of female inmates had not materialised and there were currently 600 vacancies in the prison system.
He added: "This decision has been taken for operational reasons. There continues to be significant population pressures on the closed adult male estate and changes are now required to the configuration of the whole estate to allow most efficient management of the rising population.
"With regards to staffing issues, discussions will be held with staff at both locations. These discussions will include looking in detail at the new functions and requirements of these prisons, as well as any consequences that may arise.
"If, as a result of any change of function a slight reduction to the staffing profile is required, we will look at how staff may be best redeployed, discussing their individual needs as well as considering the requirements of nearby prisons."