Five women’s prisons have now joined the National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV)’s nationwide partnership scheme to give women prisoners and ex-offenders protection from their abusers.
Originally launched with HMP Newhall in November 2021 and rolled out to HMP Peterborough and HMP Bronzefield, the scheme has just been joined by HMP Send and HMP Eastwood Park. The total number of prison places these five prisons can accommodate is approximately 2,900 – representing over half of the UK’s entire female prison population.
The NCDV devised the partnership scheme to offer residents at any of the 12 prisons in England housing women* a chance to protect themselves using well-established civil law procedures. Court Orders such as Non-Molestation Orders can provide a significant degree of practical protection. If a perpetrator breaks the Order he or she can be arrested, charged with a criminal offence and sent to prison for up to five years.
Latest joiner HMP Eastwood Park is one of only two female prisons in the UK to take Welsh female prisoners who account for 30% to 40% of its population at any given time.
As part of the scheme NCDV will be working closely with The Nelson Trust, who run Women’s Community Services and Women’s Centres countywide across Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Somerset, Bristol and Wales, as well as within HMP Eastwood Park itself.
NCDV’s Head of Partnerships and Development, Sharon Bryan, said: “We are delighted with the take-up of the partnership which means vulnerable residents can directly access legal advice from inside prison.
“This initiative first came about thanks to Together Women who run women’s centres across the North of England, including at HMP Newhall, and who recognised the high vulnerability of so many women prisoners. Gradually, by word of mouth, other prisons have been keen to also be involved and work in partnership with NCDV.
“Some figures suggest as many as 57% of women in prison will have experienced domestic abuse.”
“You might think,” says Bryan, “that one of the few benefits of being sent to prison for some women is physical protection from their abuser. In fact, many women prisoners – who tend to serve comparatively short sentences – continue to be at severe risk of coercive control and/or physical danger from those that they cannot avoid on release. Yet, historically the courts will assume that because a woman is in prison she is not at risk. This just isn’t the case.”