published: 20 May 2016
By Claire Cain
Over the years Holloway has been like a refuge to me – sleeping in doorways was tough. When it was freezing and there was snow on the ground, I would never have survived outside.”
The above quote is from the story Survival, part of an online collection of anonymous first-hand accounts about life in soon to be closed Holloway prison. It says everything about why we, at the national charity Women in Prison (WIP), have launched a campaign to Reclaim Holloway, and why we want to see a different approach to prison reform from that set out in the Queen’s Speech.
Every year around 9,000 women are sent to prison, yet the only risk of harm posed by most of them is to themselves. Suicides in prison are on the rise. Already this year five women have taken their own lives inside – the same number as for the whole of 2015 – and we’re not even halfway through the year yet. Self-harm is also on the rise.
Many female prisoners have a history of trauma, mental health problems and have suffered poverty, homelessness and domestic abuse. These experiences drive them to use alcohol and drugs as coping mechanisms and increase their chances of ending up in prison. The only way to solve this is to invest in community support and solutions for these issues before women get to this stage.