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Having to go out back to their own communities and not seeing any alternatives is a problem. (A. 22 )

The most prison can do is offer some respite from poverty, drugs and abuse, but all women will go out to the same situation and problems they faced prior to prison. (A.23)

They go back to peer pressure in the same area. (A.19). They return to the same substance abuse, relationships and still no support from agencies. (A.9)

If someone’s in for a short sentence and she returns to the same situation, the same environment, same group of friends, then, in terms of resettlement, I don’t think they stand a chance. (A.3)

H o w t h e y s e t t l e , d e p e n d s w h a t t h e y r e c o m i n g o u t t o . ( A . 6 ) )

And sometimes, the criminal community and lifestyle they are coming out to is very attractive, especially if it has not been replaced by anything more interesting or lucrative. One of the ex-prisoners had given up shoplifting after many years of making a successful living (and ‘getting a life’) from it. Now, in isolation and without a community of people with like interests and similar histories, she mourned the life she had lost:

I’m better off in some ways since I gave up crime. I have peace of mind; I’m not always looking over my shoulder. I was tired, and getting too old for it. I stayed out late and it was a full-time job. My neighbours never knew what I did. But, I’m bored, I’m bored. Since I gave up crime I’ve lost all my old friends, and my past inhibits me against making new ones. I would have to lie about so much of my past if I got to know them. It was my life…and now I haven’t got a life. (XP3)

Yet, because of her convictions she was disheartened about the possibility of getting a job. Although she was not under pressure from anyone to return to shoplifting, without something to occupy her she now felt that, in turning away from crime, she had excluded herself from the only lifestyle she knew. The NGO where she was interviewed was making good provision in terms of recreation, study and associates in the short term, but it was easy to imagine that in the long term she would need real work to keep her away from the shoplifting which, she admitted, in some senses she had ‘loved’.

Hypothesis 2. Imprisonment excludes women who were not socially excluded prior to their imprisonment and excludes already-excluded women still further

The hypothesis that imprisonment excludes women who were not socially excluded before their imprisonment and excludes already-excluded women still further is upheld on both logical and empirical grounds. Logically: imprisonment is an exclusionary process by reason of the fact that persons are taken out of their usual environment and locked up for the duration of the period imposed by the sentence of the court. Additionally, in England and Wales, imprisoned women are not allowed to vote, are forced to forego enjoyment of a family life and are denied sexual activity and ‘on demand’ access to a doctor. Other exclusions are also adduced in the evidence presented below.

Exclusionary factors both aggravated by, and emanating from, imprisonment

  • Homelessness

One in ten women claim to be homeless when they enter prison and of those who have homes when they go to prison, about a third lose their homes and their possessions while they are serving their sentence. As a prison officer remarked to one of the authors of this

Report many years ago: Reintegration without a home is just so much hot air. If they haven’t got a home (and, in the case of mothers, a home suitable for their children to be with them), what do we reintegrate them to?

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