The tragic events outlined in the report today were entirely avoidable and the Ombudsman has stated that there were missed opportunities to identify that Louise Powell needed urgent medical attention in the hours leading up to her giving birth. We know from discussions with our women’s forum that it is unfortunately not uncommon for women’s health needs in prison to be overlooked, leading to crisis points.
The report notes that the most recent inspection of HMP Styal found that nearly all the women that arrived at the prison had significant needs, including mental health issues and problematic substance use, and experiences of trauma, abuse and domestic violence.
The majority of women in prison are serving sentences of 12 months or less. It is our view that these women’s needs are better served with well-funded, trauma-informed and personalised community interventions, and that prison often retraumatises women and does not address their needs or the drivers of offending.
This tragic case strengthens our view that the needs of women in contact with the criminal justice system are not effectively addressed in prison, and that health-driven, holistic solutions to reoffending should be firmly rooted in the community wherever possible.