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The provision for visits was varied. Women’s prisons hold a high proportion of primary carers, but there was evidence of a decline in visit arrangements. Holloway…had an excellent family centre but no provision for family visits. Styal had family visits at the time of the inspection but, like Holloway, these later ceased because of family pressures. (HM Chief Inspector 2004a: 40) Although all but two of the 10 prisoners interviewed received visits and kept in touch with their families by telephone, several emphasised how difficult the journey was for

their visitors, resulting in fewer visits than they would have liked: It’s an 80 mile round trip, involving two trains and one bus, each way. (P4) No visits. It’s a long journey and I would not want my Mum to come all that way. She’ s not too well. (P9)

  • Loss of family and friends: Foreign Nationals The isolation of imprisonment is, however, exacerbated for Foreign Nationals who have no (or few) visits and who have to rely on saving up money for telephone calls. Their position was bleakly summed up by one agent who remarked: Foreign Nationals - the ones who’re really going to be excluded by being deported – don’t even come under the remit of the Social Exclusion Unit! (A.25)

Poor Mental Health

70% of female sentenced prisoners suffer disorders…15 percent of female sentenced

from two prisoners

or more mental health have previously been

admitted to a mental hospital…Many matches their needs… (Social Exclusion

prisoners do not Unit 2002: 71, 73)




A report by Martin Bright in The Observer newspaper on August 8th 2004 vividly portrays the tragedy of mentally women in women in prison in England and Wales: When Louise Davies was transferred from Bullwood Hall prison in Essex to New Hall, near Wakefield, at the end of March, she hoped she could make a new start. In common with one in seven women in jail, Louise had serious mental health problems that made serving her sentence - life for serial arson

  • almost unbearable. She believed a change of scenery at a prison nearer her

family could make the difference. 'My dream is to get well again and be normal in the head for once,' she said. Three weeks later she was dead.

Louise's tragic story is told in next week's final part of Real Bad Girls, a fly-on-the wall documentary series about life at Bullwood Hall. In the film, Louise is held in the segregation block for her own safety because prisoners on the 'lifer' wing had threatened to kill her after she kept them awake for five nights with her shouting. She floods and smashes up her cell and threatens to kill herself before staff decide she has to be transferred to a prison where staff will be better able to deal with her erratic behaviour.

As a child, Louise suffered brain damage and had been in and out of institutions since the age of 16. But because her personality disorder was judged untreatable, the courts had no option but to send her to prison rather than hospital.

Like many working within the prison service, Bullwood Hall governor

  • is not convinced prison is the right place for women with as many

problems as Louise. He tells the filmmakers: 'She's not well and clearly you have to ask the question: "Is prison the best place for that individual


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