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  1. ITV Report

New justice minister wants female prisoners to have more support

Over half the women in prison have been victims of domestic violence, according to charity Women In Prison. Photo: PA

More support will be offered female prisoners as the vast majority are behind bars for non-violent offences, the new justice minister has said.

Simon Hughes spoke to Daybreak about changes he was making to life for 3,845 women prisoners in England and Wales.

The outgoing deputy Lib Dem leader weighed into a long-standing debate over how the female prison population should be treated.

He pledged more support to help female prisoners avoid reoffending by helping them with their home life, control their finances, continuing help with mental illness or substance problems and "ideally, the ability to earn some money".

Women make up just 4.8% of the total UK prison population and 59% of those are serving sentences of six months or under.

81% of women jailed have committed a non-violent offence, according to campaigners Women In Prison.

Mental health issues, financial issues, or an intimidating partner are often cited as motivation for their crimes.

Inevitably, female prisoners have more dependents and can be separated from their children while serving a sentence.

Daybreak presenter Kate Garraway visited HMP Send in Surrey, a woman's prison, and spoke to inmates.

Most women do not forget the moment the prison door locks them inside, Kate Garraway said. Credit: Daybreak/ITV

One prisoner, who wished to remain anonymous told her:

It's not being able to be there, to hug them, to cuddle them.

I do get to call them, but, you know, if they're ill, you just want to cuddle their children and I can't do that.

– Female prisoner

It is estimated that around 17,000 children were separated from mothers in prison in 2010 and most female inmates are incarcerated at least 60 miles from their home.

Only 9% of the children whose mothers are in prison are cared for by their father.

Ex-prisoner Wendy Rowley also told Daybreak about the "massive impact" prison had on both her and her four children.

For me, as a person, it changed my whole life.

It is very debilitating, it is a massive change, it changes your self-esteem, it is very disempowering.

– Wendy Rowley