Former prisoner campaigns for alternatives to jail for female offenders

Video report by ITV News Meridian's Mel Bloor

A former female prisoner from Reading is calling for alternatives to jail for women who commit crime.

41-year-old Francesca Fattore, who spent three years and eight months in prison for drug offences, says there are better ways to help women reform and rebuild their lives.

According to figures from the Ministry of Justice, there are currently 3,179 women in prisons across England and Wales. That equates to under 5% of the prison population.

Most women who end up in prison have committed non-violent offences. Around a third have dependent children (30%) and a large number have mental health issues. 

Research also shows the rate of self-harm is nearly five times as high in women's prisons than in men's prisons.

Francesca believes there are better alternatives to sending women to jail for short sentences, such as electronic tagging and community-based rehabilitation courses.

She said: "There are so many women you see go in there, that some of them have never even had a caution before, but they're in the wrong place at the wrong time, or they're caught up with a partner.

"There's just so many different women that are just in there for unnecessary sentences, and it causes more damage in the long run, that what it does to give them a chance before jail."

To help raise awareness of the issues, Francesca is taking part in a new photography exhibition called 'Someone's Daughter' by The View Magazine.

Francesca Fattore (Photo: Gavin Smith for Someone’s Daughter – exhibition by The View Magazine)

The exhibition features portraits of women who have been imprisoned placed alongside professional women so that they can be seen in the same light as others in an attempt to change how they are seen.

Some of the professional women within the fields of politics, law, justice activism featured in the exhibition include Rt Rev Rachel Treweek (Bishop of Gloucester and Anglican Chaplain for Prisons), Baroness Brenda Hale (former Supreme Court Justice) and Bianca Jagger (Human Rights activist).

In 2018, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) published its Female Offender Strategy, setting out the government's commitment to a new programme of work for women in contact with the criminal justice system.

A spokesperson from the MOJ said:

“We want to see fewer women sent to prison and instead receive robust community sentences when appropriate.

“The number of women in custody has been decreasing and we are investing millions into diversion and rehabilitation services to help women turn their backs on crime.”

For more information on the 'Someone's Daughter' exhibition, please click here.