WOMEN across South Wales were given 340 prison sentences last year – the highest across England and Wales.

The 340 is equal to 62 people in every 100,000 who live in the area. This is down on the 2018 figure of 362, which stood at 67 per 100,000 but still much higher than the rest of England and Wales.

And it is seven times the rate of female imprisonment in Surrey – at just nine per 100,000. 

But all of these women are in prisons outside Wales as all jails in the country are male-only. 

The Prison Reform Trust said that unnecessary imprisonment of women remained a ‘postcode lottery’ and found the figures showed a clear, significant geographical divide.

Prison Reform Trust director Peter Dawson said: “The majority of women sent to prison are still being sent there for non-violent offences to serve sentences of less than one year. These sentences can have a devastating impact on women and their children without doing anything to address the causes of offending.

“Worryingly, the latest prison population projections suggest that recent progress could be undone with numbers of women in prison predicted to rise by 1,300 within six years.

“Sustained investment in community alternatives for women and a sharp reduction in the use of short sentences are urgently needed.”


The 10 areas with the highest rates of female imprisonment were in the North of England, Midlands and Wales. Almost all of the 10 lowest rates were in the south of England.

The overall rate of women’s imprisonment in England and Wales fell from 32 per 100,000 in 2014 to 25 per 100,000 in 2019.

The Prison Reform Trust’s latest projections show that the number of women in prison across both England and Wales will increase to 4,500 by 2026, up from the current 3,200.

The Ministry of Justice say that this increase projection is due to the recruitment of 20,000 police officers.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Justice said: “While sentencing is a matter for the independent judiciary, we remain committed to seeing fewer women entering the criminal justice system.

“That’s why we’ve invested £7.6 million in the Female Offender Strategy, which offers alternatives to prison, and seen the number in custody fall by 23 per cent in the last 10 years.”