Women in the Criminal Justice system

Key statistics on female offenders: Women in the Criminal Justice System

Key statistics:
  • On 12 February 2016, the women’s prison population stood at 3,820.[i]
  • Women offenders are a minority group within the criminal justice system, accounting for 15% of the current probation caseload and 4.5% of the prison population.i
  • The number of women in prison has increased by 114% over the 15 years 1995-2010.[ii]
  • Over 30% of women lose their accommodation, and often their possessions, while in prison.[iii]
  • Six in ten women in prison have (on average two) dependent children.[iv]
  • Women are more likely than men to be suffering poor mental health: 30% of women have had a previous psychiatric admission before they entered prison (compared to 10% of men),[v] 49% of women in prison suffer from anxiety and depression and 25% report symptoms indicative of psychosis.[vi]
  • 46% of women in prison have tried to kill themselves at some point in their lives – this is more than double the figure for men, 21%, and more than six times the figure for women in the general population, 7%.vi
  • 31% of women prisoners spent time in care as children.vi
  • Half of women in prison report having suffered domestic violence and one in three has experienced sexual abuse.[vii]
  • Most women entering prison serve very short sentences: in 2014, 58% of sentenced women entering prison were serving six months or less.[viii]
  • 45% of women are reconvicted within a year of leaving prison, and this rises to 58% for sentences of less than 12 months.[ix]
  • Women released from prison are more likely to reoffend, and reoffend earlier, than those serving community sentences.[x]


[i] Population bulletin: weekly 12 February 2016

[ii] Prison Reform Trust: Reforming Women’s Justice, p.1

[iii] Prison Reform Trust: Why focus on reducing women’s imprisonment?, p.6

[iv] Ministry of Justice’s Surveying Prisoner Crime Reduction (SPCR) survey, House of Commons – Written question 117015

[v] Prison Reform Trust: Prison briefing – Party conference 2012, p.2

[vi] Prison Reform Trust: Bromley Briefings Summer 2014, pp.4-6

[vii] Prison Reform Trust: Bromley Briefings Summer 2013, p.7

[viii] Table A2.1, Ministry of Justice (2015) Offender management statistics, Prison receptions

2014, London: Ministry of Justice

[ix] Prison Reform Trust: Bromley Briefings Summer 2015, p.6

[x] Ibid., p.33

Downlaod these statistics in document form.