HC Deb 12 July 2004 vol 423 cc1118-9
11. Ms Meg Munn (Sheffield, Heeley) (Lab/Co-op)

What steps he is taking to reduce the number of suicides amongst women prisoners. [183094]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Paul Goggins)

The number of self-inflicted deaths among women prisoners is a very serious concern for the Prison Service and for me. The suicide prevention strategy that I announced on 31 March 2004 applies across all types of prisons and to all prisoners, both male and female. A specifically targeted arid separate suicide prevention strategy is being developed for women.

Ms Munn

I thank my hon. Friend for his answer. What steps are being taken to ensure that women are given community sentences wherever possible, not just because they relieve pressure on prisons and the overcrowding that we have been discussing, but because they relieve pressure on families, particularly where there are single mothers and children may be left without their carer?

Paul Goggins

My hon. Friend is right that when a mother goes to prison, her children are affected the most, and therefore a mother should be placed in prison only when the circumstances warrant it. The Government are developing a range of community alternatives to prison, and I am discussing improvements to court diversion schemes with ministerial colleagues in the Department of Health. We are ensuring that the bail information systems in our prisons are suitable, and I am currently reviewing hostel accommodation to make sure that women who can be accommodated in the community are accommodated in hostels rather than in prisons.