Women generally only make up a small percentage of the prison population, with a large number of committals concerning non-violent offences and the majority are detained on short-term sentences. However, the impact of even short-term imprisonment on these women and their families is profound. The economic and social costs to society at large arising from the imprisonment of women are also significant.
Women prisoners have particular needs, especially health needs. Aside from reproductive healthcare and pre- and post-natal healthcare, they are more likely to be victims of domestic or sexual abuse, to experience poor mental health, and to have alcohol and drug dependency problems (75% have addiction issues according to The World Health Organisation). Women are also more likely to develop mental health problems while in prison and are more likely to self-harm or attempt suicide than male prisoners.