Most women are jailed due to the men in their lives - Vicky Pryce

(61 Posts)
kim147 Mon 14-Oct-13 13:47:28

Talking about some of the reasons women end up in jail and their life stories and the way there were treated by men that ended up with them being jailed.

What do people think?

First instinct is that I suspect she's right

Phaserstostun Mon 14-Oct-13 14:01:21

Kim, I like reading your posts. You speak a lot of sense on here. But, honestly, what kind of response to this are you expecting on this particular board? A wide-ranging debate, balanced, with roughly equal numbers of those for and against?

Yougotbale Mon 14-Oct-13 14:03:49

First reason is they break the law, but I definitely think this maybe true when analysing criminals backgrounds. Probably the same for drug addicts, gamblers, eating disorders, etc. relationships effect people.

I'm pissed off she only served 2 months. Why not have a minimum sentencing policy.

meditrina Mon 14-Oct-13 14:08:36

I think it is going too far to say "most" when the bigger (gendered) sentencing issue is the number of women imprisoned for the non-payment of quite small debts.

And of course she is overlooking the proportion of men in prison who come from abusive backgrounds and who have, or cohabit, with someone with substance abuse is also extremely high.

Phaserstostun Mon 14-Oct-13 14:14:40

The proportion of men (not sure about women) in prison who grow up in poverty, and who have extremely low levels of education in the UK is scandalous. In effect, society is failing these people. And that is me, you and everyone else. Not just the menz.

kim147 Mon 14-Oct-13 14:18:59

I've put it on here because it would disappear on chat. There are many people on here who have the stats or information.

And I agree about other reasons why people end up in jail. Education is such a key thing and prison education is not taken seriously.

Skybore Mon 14-Oct-13 14:23:27

I would imagine there are many prisoners (men and women) who will say that they are there because of other people, external factors, bad upbringing, drug habits etc. Thousands of people in this country, men and woman, have faced abuse, poverty and violence and DON'T turn to crime...

She's a devious proven liar who has spent a very small amount of time in Holloway for her crimes, and now she's an expert? Everything that comes out of her mouth is suspect.

Phaserstostun Mon 14-Oct-13 14:25:00

I didn't mean it as a criticism, sorry if it reads that way. It's an interesting point. And of course I amy be proved wrong.

Ms Pryce is a highly qualified, educated, intelligent and articulate white woman. To try to offload her own prosecution as coercion was disingenuous of her, and in a wider context, it's too simplistic for her to propose that so many women are powerless in the face of male behaviour. I do realise I am in the minority here though grin

PenguinsDontEatPancakes Mon 14-Oct-13 14:41:19


I suspect that Vicki Pryce does make a good point about how women end up in prison.

But I struggle with the idea of Vicki Pryce launching a new career as criminal academic over this debacle. Of course, you don't know another's marriage, but the jury rejected the idea of marital co-ercion. And of course it was her own need for revenge (after separation) that caused the offence to be revealed.

I don't know. I just don't feel quite right about her as a women's right's crusader in this way..

Sausageeggbacon Mon 14-Oct-13 14:42:20

I can't stand her. The whole poor me attitude stinks, she is well educated and knew the risks. Did she think she could play the sympathy card? If he beat her every day that would make sense but she is educated enough to understand the risk and reward system and she got burnt because she decided to lash out.

kim147 Mon 14-Oct-13 14:44:33

It seems several well known people who end up in jail come out as experts on the prison system. But it is good for them to see another world.

EachDay Mon 14-Oct-13 14:45:44

I know two men who are about to be (I expect) jailed for serious fraud.

They were both normal lads happy with their lot until they married women who wanted it all. TBH they probably both married out of their league and were put under tremendous pressure to provide everything their wives though they should have. There was always the threat that if they couldn't do it someone else would. I have no sympathy for them (I lost my job as a result of what they did) Ultimately, of course, they were responsible for their own actions but I think they could argue just as strongly as Vicky Price that they are going to prison because of the people they were married do.

If there is a case to be made it's that a lot of "people" end up in prison because of the actions of other people.

ashleysilver Mon 14-Oct-13 14:48:36

It's not that women are 'powerless' in the face of male behaviour and I don't think many feminists would say that either. It's more nuanced than that. It's linked to the way girls and women are conditioned to try and please others, especially men, even when it is to our detriment.

I am also hmm about VP herself though. She is just trying to to cash in on her celebrity. She is saying something controversial in order to get media attention to promote her book.

MrsDeVere Mon 14-Oct-13 15:00:18

In my experience its true.
My experience is not vast but its more than average.

I used to work for an organisation working with women offenders.

It seemed that the majority of women ended up inside because of something they were doing for some bloke.

That ranged from shop lifting to procurement of underage girls.

Acknowledging the role the men played in their offending is not the same as saying the women had no responsibility for their crimes.

Most of them had MH issues and had been abused. It was a woman only environment out of necessity.

They were not all lovely , misunderstood girlies. Some of them were manipulative and difficult. Most were not.

I don't think what she is saying is controversial. Its what a lot of people in the system know already. If you say it out loud you get accused of being sexist, making excuses etc etc.

She makes a good point when she says if you lock up people who are mentally ill you make just end up with a crap, expensive substitute for a hosptial

Many of the men in the prison system are MH, illiterate, traumatised etc.
Doesn't mean they are innocent. Doesn't mean I think they are poor misunderstood chaps.

But it is what it is.

scallopsrgreat Mon 14-Oct-13 15:01:40

What do you think about this kim?

I think that there is quite a lot of evidence that a great deal of women in jail have been victims of DV. Helena Kennedy talked about this in "Eve was Framed". I'll try and dig it out when I get home.

A very quick google brought this up from New York (disclaimer: I haven't read it in any detail as I am at work but the opening paragraphs seemed relevant to this discussion).

Trills Mon 14-Oct-13 15:03:50

I would imagine there are many prisoners (men and women) who will say that they are there because of other people, external factors, bad upbringing, drug habits etc.

I agree with Skybore.

kim147 Mon 14-Oct-13 15:06:21

I think a lot of people end up in jail due to society letting them down. I do not know the statistics but it would be interesting to know the reasons why women are jailed and if there are differences compared to the reasons men are jailed - is it petty crime, shoplifting etc.

Is it because of relationship breakdown, lack of money and needing money to support a family that they turn to crime?

I don't know enough about this area but I do know that literacy rates amongst all offenders are very low and mental health issues are high.

scallopsrgreat Mon 14-Oct-13 15:07:21

Good post MrsDeVere.

In fact if you google women in prison victims of domestic violence there is quite a lot of stuff out there to back this up.

Onesleeptillwembley Mon 14-Oct-13 15:12:28

As someone who has worked in prisons for a long time I have to say that's bollocks. Some do, some don't. This bitter, unpleasant woman is still blaming other people for her actions.
Some people do, and, as kim said, some people are there due to the system letting them down. The majority are there plain and simply because they broke the law.

Onesleeptillwembley Mon 14-Oct-13 15:14:44

And it's quite patronising to blame men or any other people, as if most women do not have a mind or will of their own. Most do. There are some people on prison I could have just cried for, but believe me - not many.

TheCrackFox Mon 14-Oct-13 15:18:22

It is probably true.

But then I think that cast majority of prisoners (male and female) are in prison because of really shit childhoods.

StillSeekingSpike Mon 14-Oct-13 15:19:28

I think that the overwhelming reason people are in jail is because they got caught- to quote the great criminologist Norman Stanley Fletcher.
And that is much much more likely if you are poor, uneducated and spent your life in care.
Ms Pryce got caught due to arrogance the same as her ex husband.

I think it's probably true.

I also agree with crackfox, and I'd go further and say that I suspect the majority of men in prison are also there because of men.

AlisonClare Mon 14-Oct-13 15:21:57

I'm of the opinion that it is more true than untrue and probably occurs because of a perceived absence of choice rather than waking up in the morning and thinking 'how am I going to be a criminal today?'

runningonwillpower Mon 14-Oct-13 15:25:11

Vicky Pryce was the author of her own misfortune as far as her prison sentence goes - just how did she imagine that one would pan out?

kim147 Mon 14-Oct-13 15:27:02

Some stats:

One in four women in prison has spent time in local authority care as a child.
Nearly 40% of women in prison left school before the age of 16 years, almost one in 10 were aged 13 or younger.
30% of women were permanently excluded from school.
Over half the women in prison report having suffered domestic violence and one in three has experienced sexual abuse.
19% of women were not in permanent accommodation before entering custody and 10% of women were sleeping rough.

Women account for 47% of all incidents of self harm.
30% of women (as compared to 10% of men) have had a previous psychiatric admission before they come into prison.
Of all the women who are sent to prison, 37% say they have attempted suicide at some time in their life. 51% have severe and enduring mental illness, 47% a major depressive disorder, 6% psychosis and 3% schizophrenia.

83% of women in prison stated that they had long-standing illness, compared with 32% of the general female population. 73% were on medication on arrival at prison – mainly benzodiazepines (42%), methadone (36%), antidepressants (14%), and sleeping pills (10%).

Women prisoners are subject to higher rates of disciplinary proceedings than men. According to the Ministry of Justice, “women may be less able (due for example to mental health issues) to conform to prison rules.”

Women serve shorter prison sentences than men and for less serious offences. In the 12 months ending June 2011, 59% of women entering prison under sentence serve sentences of up to and including six months, compared with 48% of men. Theft and handling was by far the most common offence, accounting for 34% of sentenced receptions.

Trills Mon 14-Oct-13 15:28:49

The stats are interesting but without the comparable stats about men we don't know if this is specific to women in prison or if it says something simply about people in prison.

kim147 Mon 14-Oct-13 15:30:38

I'm sure some are similar. Especially being in care.

scallopsrgreat Mon 14-Oct-13 16:06:14

Why do we need to compare to men? Surely the fact that women in prison are survivors of abuse is a problem in its own right? Why can't that be tackled as it is?

78bunion Mon 14-Oct-13 16:06:50

It may well be right although we do have to take responsibilty for ourselves. In her case I haev never blamed her. Had her husband chosen to stick to his marriage vows none of this would have happened. Had he chosen not to present her with - take my points or ruin my career as I have already lied - the situation would not have arisen. He of course is the real loser in all this as he has ruined his relationships with his children for life because of his misconduct and he deserves it.

youretoastmildred Mon 14-Oct-13 16:15:33

we are all part of complex social networks in which we are influenced by others all the time. In these networks very often men hold the power and the status. It is rare for women to find that they are in thrall to other women for their security or material well being or whatever, just because it is rare for people to find themselves in situations where women are running the show

having said that, this particular case is just ew. this reinforces the cynical part of me that thinks that as a class politicians are in general on the edge of crookery and that their spouses and other close associates basically understand and accept this. She did as she was asked because it was part of a world view she had accepted, that her husband was not one of the little people and should not be treated as such. then she got angry and tried to have it both ways - that he had committed a crime but not her - and it backfired and still she won't take responsibility for that double standard. The whole thing is horrible and comes from a position of great privilege, that is attempting (and succeeding for a while) in being above the law. Making this into an underdog's cri de coeur is erm not really facing up to the true facts of her situation to say the least.

Trills Mon 14-Oct-13 16:20:26

I wasn't referring to abuse, I was referring to kim's stats about mental illness and care-leavers (and others).

If female care-leavers are more vulnerable to ending up in prison than male care-leavers, then that's a different problem to (and different action needs to be taken) compared to if care-leavers in general were more likely to end up in prison than those who had not been in care as a child.

We need to understand what the problem is in order to help it.

Are we specifically failing women who were in care as children, or are we failing all care-leavers?

Trills Mon 14-Oct-13 16:21:23

I agree with LRD's point that I suspect the majority of men in prison are also there because of men.

scallopsrgreat Mon 14-Oct-13 16:44:11

Well from the Bromley Briefing (Nov 2012) which is linked from that page (and I thought that those stats were derived from but there seems to be a couple of discrepancies):

Taken into care as a child:
24% (31% for women, 24% for men) this compares to 2% of the general population
Experienced abuse as a child:
29% (53% for women, 27% for men)
Observed violence in the home as a child:
41% (50% for women, 40% for men
Identified as suffering from both anxiety and depression:
25% (49% for women, 23% for men), this compares to 15% of the general population who are estimated to be suffering from different types of anxiety and depression

and one that wasn't on kim's list but I found shocking:

Only 9% of children whose mothers are in prison are cared for by their fathers in their mothers’ absence.

scallopsrgreat Mon 14-Oct-13 16:48:36

That last stat ties in with these stats:

28% of women in prison had no previous convictions – more than double the figure for men (13%).
13% of women serving sentences of under 12months had no previous convictions, compared with only 8% of men.

Women are more likely to be put in prison for first offences because they can't do alternatives such as community service due to childcare responsiblities. So children get put in care whilst their mothers go to prison.

Trills Mon 14-Oct-13 17:10:32

Thanks for digging those out.

I'd like to see the stats in the other direction as well - not just "what % of women in prison have depression" but also "what % of women who have depression end up in prison" if you see what I mean, but it does look as if there's a differential there.

Only 9% of children whose mothers are in prison are cared for by their fathers in their mothers’ absence.

This one ties in very well with the title of the thread. If we believe the statement in the title to be true, then:
When a man is in prison, it's not "due to" the woman in his life, so it's fine for her to look after the children
When a woman is in prison, it is "due to" the man in her life, so he is either in prison too or is generally not fit to look after the children.

Beatrixparty Mon 14-Oct-13 17:23:57


Women are more likely to be put in prison for first offences because they can't do alternatives such as community service due to childcare responsiblities. So children get put in care whilst their mothers go to prison.

If really doubt this is true. I have several years of experience of working in magistrates court. Magistrates are generally loath to sentence women into custody. I do not recall seeing a pre-sentence report recommending custody for the above reasons.

One has to be careful drawing inferences from statistics. The above fact about re: no previous convictions, might be true, but it might be for different reasons. Male pattern of offending often starts with petty crime such as driving offences, minor public order act offences, minor assaults arising from fights in pubs, streets etc. Whereas as women don't in pick up such convictions large numbers. Police often give women warnings in such circumstances rather than arresting / charging them - often the facts aren't so serious. So womens' profile are a lot different - I think too (from memory) a significant proportion of those women that do end up getting a custodial sentence are the drug mules from abroad - any previous convictions they might have don't 'follow' them into Court.

scallopsrgreat Mon 14-Oct-13 21:29:28

I didn't actually infer that from those stats Beatrixparty I got that from Eve was framed (via memory and paraphrased because I didn't have it in front of me).

3 times as many women as men are jailed for their first offence. I am sure you are right that there are a range of reasons but one of the significant reasons she gives is:

"Because their lack of resources make financial penalties unsuitable and because there are so few community programmes suitable for women, female offenders end up in prison despite the often trivial nature of their offending."

"Women in Prison report that ironically sometimes receive harsher sentences than men because they are mothers. They maybe deemed unsuitable for community service because they have young children, but then the courts, unable or unwilling to come up with an alternative punishment, send them to jail."

Darkesteyes Mon 14-Oct-13 22:57:12

I wonder how many single mums are in prison due to non payment of things like the TV licence due to the financial abuse of an ex who wont pay Child Support.

ScaryFucker Mon 14-Oct-13 23:01:19

Gut reaction ? I think I agree with Ms Pryce on that particular point.

Beatrixparty Tue 15-Oct-13 09:22:58


Do you mean, where the imprisonment is solely for a failure to pay the fine (rather than payment of the licence itself - sorry to be so pedantic) and not for other fines too (they very often get bundled together don't they) - and where the sentencing magistrates at the specialist fines court (no doubt about it that each of those magistrates will be a MENZ) have determinedly ignored the legal test as to whether or not such a failure is a 'wilful refusal' to pay, rather than an inabilty to pay. (you will be aware that it is only upon a finding of wilful refusal to pay a fine, that allows a court to impose a custodial sentence - even a suspended one.). My first thought was....well i'm sure that you wouldn't be happy with my first thoughts

so I'd revise my answer to hundreds if not thousands, with no chance of early release - with a possibility - nay likelihood - of deportation to Australia (not one of the nice parts either) upon eventual release.

So there we are - hundreds if not thousands.

Anniegetyourgun Tue 15-Oct-13 16:59:27

<wonders who Beatrixparty is and what she has been taking>

NotDead Tue 15-Oct-13 17:21:14

ptobably not best to rake up too much of a debate here. Sentences for women offence by offence, are a third that of men with women also far less likely to recieve a custodial senrence in the first place.

The other side of this is that women receiving long prison sentences are likely to have committed not only more serious crimes, but also have given the courts reason to be given longer sentences.

scallopsrgreat Tue 15-Oct-13 23:29:03

Shoplifting accounts for a third of women in prison. Shoplifting.

scallopsrgreat Tue 15-Oct-13 23:30:16

but also have given the courts reason to be given longer sentences. I am sure they have. After all their behaviour as victims also accounts for lesser sentences for men too.

VerySmallSqueak Tue 15-Oct-13 23:39:26

It's my belief that many women end up in prison because of poverty.

Sthingmustbescaringthemaway Tue 15-Oct-13 23:57:14

Exactly what proportion of women, on gaining release, are able to capitalize on their imprisonment by feeding the British media's hunger for the pontifications of the formerly great and good?

And are they able to access this ladder back to their former status to the same degree as a comparable group of men?

BillyBanter Wed 16-Oct-13 00:16:35

Looking at those stats it suggests to me that the circs that make them more likely to spend time in prison are the same circs that make them more likely to be in unhealthy relationships.

There is always a reason someone ends up in jail. I would expect there to be some sort of correlation between abusive relationships and prison time but correlation does not equal causation.

Beatrixparty Wed 16-Oct-13 09:07:07


Shoplifting accounts for a third of women in prison. Shoplifting.

Ok - imagine you are a magistrate sentencing a woman before you for shoplifting. What sentence would you impose ?

Trills Wed 16-Oct-13 20:56:00

Shoplifting accounts for a third of women in prison. Shoplifting.

This could just mean that, of crimes that can result in a prison sentence, shoplifting is the one that women commit most often.

Beatrixparty Thu 17-Oct-13 09:18:40


I was looking forward to an answer of sorts, still.....

A probable answer to my above question would be - for a woman found guilty of shoplifting, where she is of previously good character, where there are no aggravating features such as threats made nor involving a child in the crime, early guilty plea - most benches would easily be persuaded to hand down a conditional discharge - meaning no punishment unless within (say) 6-12 months, the woman commits a similar offence - and then she would be re-sentenced for the original offence (as well as the new offence). So imagine again you are the magistrates that has to sentence this woman that has been convicted of a second offence within the set period. What sentence are you looking to impose here now ?

scallopsrgreat Thu 17-Oct-13 10:05:28


OK well first of all I wasn't on MN yesterday so many many apologies for not responding to you in a timescale of your choosing Beatrix.

Really not sure why you are asking the question in the first place. I am not disputing that the women are sent to jail. As Trills said I was rather more interested that such a significant proportion of women in jail are in for such a relatively minor crime. One that is definitely related to poverty as VerySmallSqueak said. This was vaguely in response to NotDead. I can't imagine that custodial sentences for shoplifting are that great. I also can't imagine that a third of men are in prison for shoplifting. I was just musing really about comparing like for like between sentences for men and women when the make-up of women's crimes are very different to men's. They are far more likely to assist in crime than be the criminal masterminds.

I thought VerySmallSqueak has raised an interesting point with poverty because it touches on the feminization of poverty and men's part in that.

Beatrixparty Thu 17-Oct-13 10:30:38


What I was getting at is that it is a gradual process in the main before a woman gets a custodial sentence - probably involving many many repeat offences of shoplifting - initially, the bench would start at a conditional discharge, fines (the magistrates typically impose fine after fine). Often no or little attempt is given to pay of these fines. Then as the same woman keeps on being brought before the bench, they will order pre-sentence reports, try to identify issues, try community based orders - unpaid work in the community and rehabilitation programmes, then if these don't work suspended custodial sentences coupled with more community orders, breaches of these - more shoplifiting until eventually the woman does get a custodial sentence. Any outstanding fines, for whatever original offence she has built up until then are then wiped off the slate at that point.

Then people are shocked at the statistics that there are women that are jailed for shoplifting. I would agree that women ought not to be jailed for such petty offences - but no-one finds themselves in prison at the drop of a hat for shoplifting unless there are very serious aggravating circumstances - they are warned time and time again by the courts of what will eventually happen.

If I had to suggest a solution it would be to vastly improve the provision of community orders so that they actually work.

scallopsrgreat Thu 17-Oct-13 10:40:36

I'm not disputing any of that. I would hope that is the process. Mind you fining someone who is stealing because they can't afford to live is sadly ironic.

I am not shocked that women are in jail for shoplifting. I am shocked and saddened at the proportion of women in jail for such a minor crime.

DavesDadsDogDiedDiabolically Thu 17-Oct-13 11:00:32

As mentioned upthread though, the stats are meaningless in isolation.

They need to be detailed with the equivalent stats for Men so a comparison can be made. At the moment I've no idea if 50% of men are in jail for shoplifting, or whether they get jail for running gangs of shoplifting women - bringing us back to the OP.

Ideally an idea of previous offences would be nice too so you could build up a "story" behind each number, but I can't see that being achievable with publicly available figures.

Beatrixparty Thu 17-Oct-13 11:02:33

Very often the reason for the theft are to pay for drug habits, typically (in my day) a £10 bag of heroin. But yes, such women are hardly flush with disposable money - so cutting out the interminable rounds of fines, would take out a large part of the process.

I don't understand your last sentence, what does the proportion have to do with it - each case is judged on its own facts.

scallopsrgreat Thu 17-Oct-13 15:45:10

Well I think it is sad that a third of women are in prison for a crime born out of desperation. And I am shocked that it is such a high proportion of women.

Beatrixparty Thu 17-Oct-13 17:25:52


I still don't understand. In the past I have argued with MRA types, who say that they are shocked that the low proportion of fathers having residence of their children is unfair. They don't seem to realise that fairness has nothing to do with it. A judge at Court doesn't keep tabs of their judgement that day, awarding 50% of all residence cases to fathers and 50% to mothers - just to keep proportions 'fair'. More often that not, it is better for children to stay with mothers and each case is judged on its facts.

In the same way, given that these women have eventually crossed the custody threshold - each case again judged on its facts - the only way for the proportion of their numbers to be smaller would be for more women to be given custodial sentences for other offences - I cant see that is what you would want.

I don't think I'm being obtuse ?

VerySmallSqueak Thu 17-Oct-13 17:59:31

I just want to pick up on something you mentioned kim.

"It seems several well known people who end up in jail come out as experts on the prison system.But it is good for them to see another world."

I think that a former prisoner,whether well known or not,really has an insight to offer that cannot be gauged from statistics. Ms Pryce is speaking from a position that the majority of women have not been in.
In that respect,I think she is better placed to offer her opinion than many.

But,what the actual root cause is,is surely a matter of opinion,rather than a matter of fact,and I still say the most likely base cause is poverty. Poverty has a lot to answer for.Lack of choice.Lack of vision for the future.Lack of educational opportunities.

scallopsrgreat Thu 17-Oct-13 19:28:11

I think you are trying to find an argument I'm not making Beatrix. In fact I'm not making any argument. I am just expressing sadness that so many women (in terms of the proportions of women in prison) are resorting to crime out of desperation.

I am not arguing that the proportion is too high or they shouldn't be in prison. I was just observing.

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