New law will send women to jail needlessly, peers warn

Woman in prison celloriginally by: The Independent
published: 15th January 2012

Thousands of women will be sent to jail needlessly if new criminal justice legislation is allowed into law in its current form, a group of cross-party peers warn this weekend ahead of a vote in the House of Lords. A new Ministry of Justice bill on sentencing must be changed radically to take account of women, they say, if the Government is to reduce the growing number of women being given custodial sentences.

The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishing Offenders Bill (LASPO), which currently contains no reference to women offenders in the entire document, will shepherd more women into a prison system designed for men, critics claim.

More than four thousand women, or five per cent of the prison population, are currently held behind bars – a number which has increased by nearly a third in the last decade. But the Government’s ‘gender blind’ approach to offenders mean women are being sent into a justice system that is failing them, according to the group of peers, who stress that most of them should not be going to prison at all.

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