Good news today that Gillian Gibbons is on her way home from Sudan after being given a presidential pardon. She had been sentenced to 15 days in jail for insulting Islam through allowing the children in her class to call a teddy bear Muhammad as part of a wildlife project.
Gibbons’ sentence seems completely out of proportion to her ‘crime’ but that is true for far too many women in British prisons. The women’s prison population stands at nearly 4,500. It increased by 173% over the ten years to 2004 even though the nature and seriousness of women’s offending has not been getting worse. The men’s prison population rose by 50% over the same period to over 70,000. A Fawcett Society report found that “these women are rarely serious, violent offenders and they generally pose little risk to public safety.” While the Home Office has said “the evidence suggests that the courts are imposing more severe sentences on women for less serious offences.”
Female offenders are more likely to be solely responsible for the care of children and for running a home than male offenders. Their imprisonment often results in the loss of housing and severe disruption to their children. In addition, the relatively small number of women’s prisons mean that female prisoners are more likely to be held further from home, causing more disruption to family life. For more information visit the Women in Prison website.