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Synopsis

More and more women are being sent to prison: at the time when this book was written numbers had doubled over the last five years, and the Prison Reform Trust called this 'a rate of increase without precedent in the modern era.' Indeed, the figures for convicted women shows an even greater increase - 76% according to the National Association of Probation Officers, more than twice the increase for men. Though the media focuses on high profile women prisoners like Myra Hindley and Rosemary West, most women become 'invisible' as soon as they pass through the prison gates and are subsumed into a world that is predominantly masculine and insensitive to their very different needs. The author spent five years visiting twelve of the 16 prisons that take women, interviewing female prisoners and, more unusually, those whose job it is to care for them - prison officers, education, probation and healthcare staff, chaplains and counsellors. In a book that is accessible to the general reader as well as to the prison professional, she vividly recreates the realities of prison life for a woman prisoner at the end of the twentieth century, as conditions worsen with overcrowding, staff shortages and expenditure cuts. Some of Devlin's findings will shock as well as inform: she describes the over-use of medication as a means of control; the violence resulting from drug misuse; the plight of ethnic minority and foreign national women; and the self-mutilation and suicide attempts of female prisoners in desperate need of help. Invisible Women is a comprehensive and graphic update on the current state of women's prisons in England and Wales. It enables readers - especially people who have never set foot inside a prison - to 'see' the invisible women behind the bars. Since the book's publication in 1998 it has become something of a classic and is required or recommended reading on many college and practitioner courses. Review: 'What a marvelous book . . . Excellent': Justice of the Peace

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