What do we know about women involved in the criminal justice system? They make up just 5% of the UK’s prison population, but the consequences of custody for them and their families are too often devastating. The social determinants of women’s involvement in the criminal justice system are clear: most are there for non-violent offences rooted in experiences of destitution and trauma.
The root causes of women’s involvement in crime are like those for men but often more pronounced and with deeper repercussions. Many have been victims themselves: either emotional, physical or sexual abuse as a child or exploited to support someone else’s drug use.
The prison system was designed by men, for men, and it is often inadequate for women’s needs. Though the criminal justice system is much more than just the prison system, this paper focuses on women’s pathways to custody to understand the role the voluntary sector plays in supporting women to avoid prison.