Why are vulnerable women still being jailed?

Women in Prison originally by: The Observer
published: 16 June 2013

Melanie Beswick was 34 when she hanged herself in Surrey’s Send prison in 2010. Her inquest was held last month.

Married and working part-time as a financial assistant at Citizens Advice in Portsmouth, she had been left in debt over a slimming franchise. Over several months, she embezzled £19,000 from her employers. It was her first offence and she received a nine-month sentence. The judge said at the time: “This woman is a suicide risk and she is to be watched carefully.”

Melanie’s death is one of 100 women’s deaths in custody over the past decade. Her case will be highlighted in a report published on Monday by the charity Inquest, a free advice service for bereaved people after contentious deaths.

Thirty-eight deaths have occurred since Baroness Jean Corston’s ground-breaking review of vulnerable women in the prison system in 2007. Her proposals received cross-party support. They included the closure of 14 women’s prisons in England by 2017 to be replaced with small custodial units closer to the prisoners’ homes, intensive community punishments and preventive support for women leading highly chaotic lives to prevent them from entering prison in the first place, which often results in losing children into care.

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