This Spotlight features a list of up-to-date and freely available research and resources on the topic of incarceration and women's health.
The Victorian female prison population has risen by 138% in the past ten years, outpacing growth rates for men. Recent sentencing and bail condition changes (including abolition of suspended sentences and increased sentence lengths) have had a disproportionate effect on women, including a rapid rise in those held on remand in the past 4 years. Growth in the prison population affects the availability of rehabilitation programs and support services, with limited or no access for women on remand.
Much can be done to reduce and prevent women’s offending, imprisonment and recidivism. Primary prevention measures include adequate access to stable housing, employment, and gender-sensitive mental health and drug and alcohol services for women in all regions of Victoria. Reversing changes to bail and sentencing laws which have led to higher numbers of women in prison, together with an increased focus on justice reinvestment and community-based rehabilitation programs, can reduce the risk of offending and re-offending. Ensuring access to appropriate and culturally safe services both inside and outside prison, including transition and pre and post release support, is also of critical importance. This includes specialist services, case management and supported accommodation post release.
*July 2019: minor introduction revision
Women's Health Victoria (2018) Spotlight on incarceration and women's health. Women's Health Victoria. Melbourne. - (Spotlight; Sep 2018)