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How Many Female Prisons Are There in the UK?

While women make up only about 5% of the prison population in England and Wales, there are several facilities dedicated solely to housing female inmates. Currently, there are a total of 12 women-only prisons across the United Kingdom.

Overview of Women’s Prisons in the UK

Women’s prisons in the UK are administered by Her Majesty’s Prison Service and typically house inmates convicted of crimes or held on remand while awaiting trial. Some key facts about the female prison system include:

  • Accommodate all security categories from low-risk to high-risk offenders.
  • Many offer dedicated mother and baby units for pregnant inmates and new mothers.
  • Provide educational and rehabilitation programs tailored to women.
  • Female inmates generally serve shorter sentences than male prisoners.
  • Population has risen about 25% over the past decade to nearly 4,000 inmates as of 2020.

The following sections will provide an overview of the 12 current women’s correctional facilities throughout England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

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Women’s Prisons in England

There are a total of 10 female prisons across England, the details of which are outlined below:

HMP Bronzefield

  • Location: Ashford, Surrey
  • Operational since: 2004
  • Prisoner capacity: 527 inmates
  • Category: Private prison holding remanded and sentenced prisoners

HMP Downview

  • Location: Sutton, Surrey
  • Operational since: 1959
  • Prisoner capacity: 321 inmates
  • Categories: Closed and remanded prisoners of all security levels

HMP Drake Hall

  • Location: Eccleshall, Staffordshire
  • Operational since: 1964
  • Prisoner capacity: 335 inmates
  • Categories: Sentenced adult females and young offenders

HMP Eastwood Park

  • Location: Falfield, South Gloucestershire
  • Operational since: 1995
  • Prison capacity: 440 inmates
  • Categories: Closed conditions for adult women

HMP Foston Hall

  • Location: Foston, Derbyshire
  • Operational since: 1998
  • Prison capacity: 304 inmates
  • Categories: Closed prison for women aged 18 and over

HMP Low Newton

  • Location: Brasside, County Durham
  • Operational since: 1965
  • Prison capacity: 323 inmates
  • Categories: Closed prison holding remanded and sentenced offenders

HMP New Hall

  • Location: Flockton, West Yorkshire
  • Operational since: 2002
  • Prison capacity: 415 inmates
  • Categories: Closed prison for sentenced women aged 18+

HMP Peterborough

  • Location: Peterborough, Cambridgeshire
  • Operational since: 2005
  • Prison capacity: 360 inmates
  • Categories: Remand and sentenced female prisoners

HMP Send

  • Location: Send, Surrey
  • Operational since: 1962
  • Prison capacity: 280 inmates
  • Categories: Long-term sentenced female adults and young offenders

HMP Styal

  • Location: Wilmslow, Cheshire
  • Operational since: 1962
  • Prison capacity: 480 inmates
  • Categories: Adult women aged 18 and over

Women’s Prisons in Scotland

Scotland has one dedicated female prison:

  • HMP Cornton Vale – Located in Stirling, it opened in 1975 and houses remanded and sentenced female offenders. The capacity is about 300 inmates.

Women’s Prisons in Northern Ireland

There is currently one female prison in Northern Ireland:

  • HMP Ash House – Part of Hydebank Wood Prison in Belfast, Ash House can hold up to 60 sentenced and remand female prisoners.
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So in total across the United Kingdom, there are currently 12 operational women’s prisons holding approximately 4,000 inmates as of 2020. The facilities provide security, rehabilitation services, and more tailored specifically to incarcerated women.

Recent Changes and Developments

The number and capacity of women’s prisons in the UK has remained relatively stable over the past decade. However, some notable changes include:

  • Expansions to add capacity at Downview, Foston Hall, Eastwood Park, and Peterborough.
  • Closures of Askham Grange in Yorkshire and more recently Holloway in London.
  • Conversion of some prisons like Highpoint into male facilities as the female prison population has stabilized.
  • Addition of dedicated mother and baby units at prisons like Bronzefield.

While overall capacity has increased slightly with expansions, the total number of women’s prisons has decreased due to selected closures. There are no immediate plans to construct additional new facilities or close active prisons.

Differences From Male Prisons in the UK

Women’s correctional facilities in the UK have some key differences from their male counterparts:

  • Smaller overall capacities averaging about 350 inmates each.
  • More open, interacting environments with less locked isolation.
  • Facilities tailored for family visits, prenatal care, mothers with babies.
  • Programs geared toward common issues like substance abuse, trauma, and self-harm.
  • Typically lower security levels as women are less prone to violence.
  • Specialist medical, pregnancy, and mental health services.
  • Focus on building self-esteem, life skills and maintaining family ties.

This contrasts the more restrictive, harsh conditions often prevalent in male high-security prisons. Women’s facilities aim to incarcerate while also rehabilitating inmates.


There are currently 12 dedicated female prisons housing around 4,000 inmates across England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. While once numbering over 20, closures have reduced UK women’s prisons down to a dozen key facilities mostly built since the 1960s. These correctional institutions aim to provide safe, rehabilitative environments tailored to the specific needs of female inmates and their families during incarceration. The population has stabilized in recent decades, suggesting no major new institutions will be required in the near future.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Women’s Prisons in the UK

How many female prisons are currently operating in the UK?

There are a total of 12 dedicated women’s prisons across England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

What percentage of the UK prison population is female?

About 5% of prisoners in the UK are women. The current female prison population is around 4,000.

What is the largest women’s prison in the UK?

HMP Bronzefield in Surrey is the largest with capacity for 527 inmates. HMP Low Newton and HMP Styal are also among the largest.

How many women’s prisons are in England?

There are 10 female prisons located throughout various regions of England.

Are there any women’s prisons in Wales?

No, there are no dedicated women’s prisons in Wales. Female inmates from Wales are housed in English prisons.

Do UK women’s prisons allow children?

Some have dedicated mother and baby units that allow women to have young children with them during part of their sentence.

What are women’s prisons focused on?

Rehabilitation programs, mental health services, building life skills and self-esteem, and maintaining family ties.

How old are most of the UK women’s prisons?

Most were established from the 1960s to early 2000s. Bronzefield opened most recently in 2004.

Have any women’s prisons closed recently?

Yes, Holloway Prison in London closed in 2016 and Askham Grange in Yorkshire closed earlier in the 2000s.

How are women’s prisons different from men’s?

They are lower security, have more open environments, tailored programs, and greater focus on rehabilitation.

Prison Inside Team

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Welcome to ‘Prison Inside,’ a blog dedicated to shedding light on the often hidden and misunderstood world within correctional facilities. Through firsthand accounts, personal narratives, and insightful reflections, we delve into the lives of those who find themselves behind bars, offering a unique perspective on the challenges, triumphs, and transformations that unfold within the confines of these walls.

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