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Overall, quality of detoxification provision appears to vary between prisons. The most recent report of HM Chief Inspector of Prisons (2004a), for instance, highly praised the detoxification unit at Holloway [Women’s] Prison in London while heavily criticising the poor detoxification units at Styal (women’s prison) in Cheshire, where

The lack of nursing staff to provide ongoing monitoring, care planning and key working…caused… concern. The noisy and chaotic environment…was not conducive to effective detoxification. Post detoxification support was lacking… (HM Chief Inspector of Prisons 2004b: 66)

Detoxification, however, is also becoming a problem for other prisons that have not previously had to deal with it. Training prisons…were all receiving recently sentenced women who had not completed detoxification and were in need of more support than the prison could provide. (HM Chief Inspector of Prisons 2004a:38)

  • Narrowing Options

The social options of all

prisoners

are

most

probably

narrowed

by

their

time

in

prison;

employment

and

education

are

disrupted,

relationships

and

health

are

impaired

and

there

is a further loss stigmatisation of

of a

self esteem via prison sentence.

humiliation by prison staff and The recently published story of

the inevitable Ruth Wyner

provides good illustration of how imprisonment can severely impair the life even a socially secure middle-class woman. For, unlike the majority of inmates, Ruth Wyner, was a well-educated mother of two with a supportive

chances of her fellow and loving

family, a non-smoker and in good health later, when she was released from prison,

when she went she still had her

to gaol in 1999. Seven months loving family and stable home,

but had now become a coughing smoker, had breast cancer and mixed emotions, inability to concentrate and sleeplessness (Wyner

was troubled 2003: 213).

by

very

Sub - hypothesis 2.1. Women’s prisons are disadvantaged in the prison system. The hypthesis cannot be sutained without several qualifications. Overall, and because conditions are so variable between prisons in both the men’s prison estate and the women’s, at the present time the women’s prisons as a whole are not disadvantaged (compared with men’s prisons) within the prison system for England and Wales. This is not to say that women are not disadvantaged as prisoners, but it is to say that the main causes of their disadvantaged status may not be primarily attributable to a difference of treatment or regimes between the male and female estate but rather to women’s relatively small numbers in the whole prison system and because women suffer more than men from penal confinement even when their prison conditions are equal in terms of budget provision. To assess whether women’s prisons are suitable for women it is necessary to recognise women’s difference to men and assess women’s prisons in terms of substantive needs-based justice rather than in terms of their formal equality with men’s prisons.

There is abundant literature which describes the ways in which women have traditionally been disadvantaged within prison systems designed for men and wherein women’s needs have been further ignored or marginalised because of the small proportions of women in the whole system. Tales of women being issued with male clothing, doctors’ charts depicting only the male form, heavy foods more appreciated by men than women, notices referring only to ‘he’ ‘his’ etc. and of training, education, work and leisure opportunities being inferior to those in the men’s prisons were standard fare in Reports and books on women’s prisons in England until at least the end of the twentieth century. (See HM Chief Inspector of Prisons 1997; Carlen 1998). Prior to the setting up of the

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