Are England and Wales facing a female imprisonment crisis?

International Women’s Day (IWD) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. This year’s theme is #PressforProgress calling for people across the world to stand up for the rights of women by uniting friends, colleagues and communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.

But how is a patriarchal society contributing to an increase in the female prison population in England and Wales, now the highest in Europe.

Is this the result of a female crime wave? Are women now more violent and reckless?

Is this the flip side of gender equality?

Dr Una Barr has teamed up with the Council of Europe to discuss key issues, which have led to a rising female prison population including neoliberalism, privatization of the prison system and austerity.

Dr Barr who is a lecturer in criminology at LJMU is an expert on female desistance and the author of many research papers on how the criminal justice system affects women. She is currently writing a book due out later this year titled Desisting Sisters: Criminal (In)Justice and Narratives of Resistance.

She said: “More people are going to jail not just women, so we have to address this issue first.

“But there is an argument around ‘double deviance’, which I think is quite prevalent within the UK – where women are not only judged for breaking their social contract in terms of breaking laws, but are also judged on top of that for breaking what is known as a gender contract.

“This is seen as breaking an agreement that women should be mild and meek and not take part in these kind of events.”

She added: “There’s an argument that women are more likely to be more heavily judged than maybe men would be.

“We certainly still live in a very patriarchal society where women are socially controlled in various ways.”

The discussion also covered the types of crimes which lead to jail sentences for women compared to men and the potential harm faced by women in prison - who are themselves often victims of serious crime, their families and wider society.

Read more about the Council of Europe



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