Record numbers of women go to jail

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The Independent Online
A RECORD number of women will spend Christmas behind bars, according to figures released by the Liberal Democrats, write Nick Cohen and Stephen Castle.

The statistics came as senior prison governors warned they would fight any attempt to turn Janet King, the governor of Holloway women's prison, into "another scapegoat" for the Home Office's inability to cope with the rise in the number of women prisoners.

Michael Howard's "prison works" policy has led to a 57 per cent increase in the number of women in jail. Almost a quarter of imprisoned women are in Holloway. Sir David Ramsbotham, the new Chief Inspector of Prisons, ordered his investigators out of the North London jail after they had seen rats, cockroaches and piles of rotting rubbish.

Home Office civil servants said privately last week that they held Ms King partly responsible for "management problems" at the jail and felt she should move to a desk job. But Ms King is understood to have warned ministers about the crisis in Holloway in the summer.

Alan Beith, the Liberal Democrats Home Affairs spokesman, highlighted a near doubling in the number of women held on remand since 1992. "It cannot be right that the number of people being held in custody before being tried is soaring, when only a quarter of them end up being jailed," he said.

Leading article, page 16