System failures contribute to self-harm amongst imprisoned women who have been in care


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A new study led by Lancaster University found a woman in prison who experienced a care system as a way for children to communicate using self-harm, relieve and end the pain of life.

Self-harm in England and Wales has recently reached record highs, especially in female prisons. This study, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, highlights the prevalence of self-harm in women with previous care experience interviewed in British prisons.

Using the experience of pre-care as the underlying thread, the research team explores topics “through another lens” to gain a deeper understanding of women’s lives, and women fail in different systems and are sometimes catastrophic. I was able to emphasize that it has the potential to produce positive results.

The survey results are today Criminology and criminal justice, Journal of the British Criminal Society, Lancaster University, Liverpool John Moore University, and articles written by researchers at the University of Bristol.

Research calls for urgent action to address system failures that affect previously cared for.

According to Ministry of Justice data (2020), self-harm in England and Wales reached a record high of 63,328 in the 12 months to December 2019, an increase of 14% year-on-year.

These figures underscore the rate of 3,130 self-harms per 1,000 prisoners in a female facility compared to 650 cases per 1,000 prisoners in a male facility.

Despite long-standing interest in links between self-harm and caring, and between experiences with self-harm ImprisonmentLittle is known about the interconnection between all three.

Researchers conducted interviews with women who were all caring for children in three closed women’s prisons in the United Kingdom.

Most women explained the background of abuse, serious violence, trauma and experienced multiple damages throughout their lives.

Of the 37 women interviewed, 17 raised self-harm and / or suicide as a problem. Fourteen reported self-harm and / or attempted suicide, and six women stated they were “suicide.” My life.

Dr. Claire Fitzpatrick, lead author and senior lecturer in criminology at Lancaster University Law School, said:Emphasizes the need for Urgent action.. “

Some women reported self-harm as a way to convey their distress.

In the case of Marlene [not her real name] (38) Self-harm has become a way to tell prison officers that she is struggling and in need of help.

“I start crying, then self-harm, and then explain,” she said. “But, as I say verbally, I don’t know how to say,’I look really depressed, I’m having a hard time, I need help.’ I do it through action. “

Feeling unlistened is a common theme among women related to both care and prison experience, which can be exacerbated by the difficulty of clearly expressing pain.

“Self-harm can be a practical alternative to oral communication for women who are suffering in some way. Women with disappointing history of care experience are involved in their lives. It may be particularly reluctant to trust the latest authorities. ” Journal articles.

Mandy (46), who entered long-term care at the age of 11 after being sexually abused by his family, was “passed from pillar to pillar” for long-term care, and after being sexually abused by a supporter of a child care institution. “I didn’t want it,” he said. Cooperate with all authorities. “

Mandy describes both self-harm and discomfort as a “scream for help” and a way to convey trauma.

A further function of self-harm that women emphasized was to “relieve pain.” Lack of timely mental health support can lead to an increase in individuals seeking to reduce psychological distress.

Joanne (39) entered a nursing home at the age of 13 following domestic violence and experienced six different foster care and orphanage placements. She described her self-harm as “controlling” when she was “angry or upset,” and felt she was in control of life imprisonment rather than taking care of her.

In ” Care system When I was a kid, I had no choice, “she explained. “No one asks you what you want … you can never be taught how to deal with stress. In a new group home.”

Studies show that self-harm may begin as a way to relieve pain, but it can be even more serious.

Five women reported trying to kill themselves at least once. Some of these women had a clear theme, “I want to get things done” when the pain becomes intolerable.

Numerous interviews reveal inadequate support for care and custody, and how responding to self-harm in prison can repeat the experience of movement and instability that women have experienced in care. It became clear whether there was something.

Lack of mental health support, lack of emotional support for the long-term effects of self-harm, and the inability of care systems to provide safety were also common themes.

According to researchers, the mechanism for tackling this must include listening to the woman without judgment, paying attention to the individual emotions and experiences of the woman, and decisively causing no further harm. It will not be.

The research team is seeking far more investment in community-based alternatives to punishing women who would otherwise not pose a danger to others.

For those already detained, prison work is underway to improve support for those with care experience.

“In order for it to make a real difference, this work must be properly resourced and supported by strong staff training, including: self harm There is a need for mental health, and services are prioritized from top to bottom, “concludes the article.

Increasing green space in prisons can reduce self-harm and violence

For more information:
Claire Fitzpatrick et al., Painful Life: Understanding Self-harm of Care-Experienced Females in Prison, Criminology and criminal justice (2022). DOI: 10.1177 / 17488958211067914

Quote: System failure, imprisoned woman receiving care obtained on January 17, 2022 from https: // (2022) January 17, 2014) contributes to self-harm-women.html

This document is subject to copyright. No part may be reproduced without written permission, except for fair transactions for personal investigation or research purposes. Content is provided for informational purposes only.

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