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 13 women's prisons in England. These are:
Establishment, Location, NOMS region
Askham Grange, York, Yorkshire & Humberside
Bronzefield*, Middlesex, Greater London
Downview, Surrey, Greater London
Drake Hall, Staffordshire, West Midlands
East Sutton Park, Kent, Kent & Sussex
Eastwood Park, Gloucestershire, South West
Foston Hall, Derbyshire, East Midlands
Holloway, Greater London, Greater London
Low Newton, Durham, North East
New Hall, West Yorkshire, Yorkshire & Humberside
Peterborough*, Cambridgeshire, East of England
Send, Surrey, Greater London
Styal, Cheshire, North West
*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 seven MBUs within women's prisons in England. These are located at Styal, New Hall, Eastwood Park, Holloway, Askham Grange, Peterborough and Bronzefield. The national capacity is 77 places for mothers (84 spaces in total to allow for twins), 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 (except for at Holloway which caters for babies up to 9 months), but this may vary a little depending on circumstances.
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.
Young women aged under 18 are held in Young Women's Units, which are separate units within women's prisons. There are three dedicated units - the Jospehine Butler Unit at Downview, the Mary Carpenter Unit at Eastwood Park and the Rivendell Unit at New Hall. The Youth Justice Board are responsible for placing young people in custody and NOMS Young People's Team oversees the arrangements.
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'
PSO 4801 'Management of mother and baby units'
The Corston report 'A review of women with particular vulnerabilities in the criminal justice system'