Prisons for men and those for women operate within the same rules and policies. However all women's prisons are additionally required to comply with gender specific standards for working with women prisoners, which are set out in Prison Service Order 4800. This enables staff to be aware of the gender specific issues that affect women prisoners and respond appropriately.
There are 12 women's prisons in England. These are:
Askham Grange, North Yorkshire
Drake Hall, Staffordshire
East Sutton Park, Kent
Eastwood Park, Gloucestershire
Foston Hall, Derbyshire
Low Newton, County Durham
New Hall, West Yorkshire
*Bronzefield and Peterborough are privately operated establishments
Mother and baby units
A mother and baby unit (MBU) is designated separate living accommodation within a women's prison, which enables mothers to have their children with them whilst in custody. Mothers on MBUs retain parental responsibility for their children and are responsible for their day-to-day care.
Applicants for a place on an MBU must be able to demonstrate that they are suitable and, primarily, that having an MBU place is in their child's or children's best interests. Mothers must also show that their presence on the unit will not be detrimental to the well-being of other children on the unit. Mothers must continue to demonstrate appropriate behaviour while on the unit so that the children's best interests continue to be met.
There are currently 6 MBUs within women's prisons in England. These are located at Styal, New Hall, Eastwood Park, Askham Grange, Peterborough and Bronzefield. The national capacity is 54 places for mothers, and each Unit has the capacity to accommodate one set of twins.
Babies can remain with their mother on an MBU up to 18 months of age.
Younger women prisoners
Young women aged between 18 and 21 are known as young adult women. In the women's estate they reside in designated accommodation within women's prisons, but depending on risk assessment, may take part in the full range of activities available to all prisoners.
If you have a question about women's prisons or women prisoners, please contact NOMS Women's Team at firstname.lastname@example.org
Directgov has useful information about pregnancy and childcare in prison – find out more.
A Distinct Approach: A guide to working with women offenders (PDF 0.99mb)
PSO 4800 'Women prisoners'
PSI 49/2014 'Mother and Baby Units'
The Corston report 'A review of women with particular vulnerabilities in the criminal justice system'
The Women's Custodial Estate Review