Invisible Women: What's Wrong with Women's Prisons?

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Waterside, 1998 - Law - 400 pages
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More and more women are being sent to prison: at the time when this book was written UK numbers had doubled over the last five years, and the Prison Reform Trust called this 'a rate of increase without precedent in the modern era.' Indeed, the figures for convicted women shows an even greater increase - 76% according to the National Association of Probation Officers, more than twice the increase for men. Though the media focuses on high profile prisoners like Myra Hindley and Rosemary West, most women become 'invisible' as soon as they pass through the prison gates and are subsumed into a world that is predominantly masculine and insensitive to their very different needs. The author spent the past five years visiting twelve of the 16 prisons that take women, interviewing prisoners and, more unusually, those whose job it is to care for them - prison officers, education, probation and healthcare staff, chaplains and counsellors. In a book that is deliberately accessible to the general reader as well as to the prison professional, she vividly recreates the realities of prison life for a woman at the end of the twentieth century, as conditions worsen with overcrowding, staff shortages and expenditure cuts. Some of Devlin's findings will shock as well as inform: she describes the over-use of medication as a means of control; the violence resulting from drug misuse; the plight of ethnic minority and foreign national women, and the self-mutilation and suicide attempts of women in desperate need of help.

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