Increasing numbers of women recalled to prison

A new report shows that the number of women being recalled to prison has more than doubled, despite the introduction of government measures designed to support people on release.

The report by the Prison Reform Trust, entitled ‘Broken Trust’, shows that over 1,700 women were recalled to prison in England and Wales in the last year.

Since the government introduced mandatory post-custody supervision, recall rates have increased massively for women to 131%. This compares to an increase in recall rates of just 22% for men.

Most women recalled to prison are only there for a few days. This can significantly disrupt their resettlement plans and causes considerable extra work for the prison system.

The report highlights that the threat of recall for women serving prison sentences of under 12 months was playing a part in breaking down the trust between female offenders and their probation officers (those responsible for their supervision in the community). This in turn was leading women to be more reluctant to open up to their probation officer about the issues they were experiencing.

Most of the women who contributed to the report felt that they were “set up to fail” on release. 19 of the women said they had not received any support for the issues they faced.

One of the women quoted in the report said:

“Being a woman homeless is so degrading. They will send me out to no housing. It’s a big, ‘recall me’ sign on my forehead. I have no excitement about going out. I got no place to go and an ex-partner who is very violent.”

The report also highlighted that the women felt that their probation officers were not able to support them with the challenges they faced, particularly in relation to housing. The report does not make any judgment on the appropriateness of individual recall decisions.

The government published a Female Offender Strategy in 2018 which identified that a lack of support to cope with social circumstances was a factor in the recent increase in the number of women being recalled to prison.

Tracy Wild, CEO Langley House Trust, said: “The report highlights the significant challenges that women face when leaving prison and how they feel ‘set up to fail’ by the current system. We need more national women-specific services in the community to help address this issue and to give women prison leavers the stability, support and housing they need.”