5 September

HM Inspectorate of Prisons has today published an inspection report of HMP & YOI Styal, a women’s prison in Cheshire. The inspection, which was unannounced, was carried out from 23 April to 6 May 2018.
The report recognises the complex needs of women in Styal prison, many with histories of serious self-harm, mental ill health, substance misuse and experiences of trauma, abuse and domestic violence.
The inspectorate was positive about the outcomes achieved at Styal prison in each area of safety, respect, purposeful activity and resettlement.
The report also noted that:

  • 72% of women reported having a mental health problem.
  • There had been 735 incidents of self-harm in the six months to March 2018, at an average of 125 incidents a month, which was more than twice the number at the previous inspection.
  • Four women were transferred under the Mental Health Act in the six months to March 2018.
  • 65% of women released who were not on home detention curfew did not have sustainable accommodation.
  • Some women had been in and out of custody up to 11 times in 12 months.

The inspection report refers to one self-inflicted death in the period from November 2014 to May 2018. There were two further deaths during this period, one non self-inflicted and the other awaiting classification.

In June 2018, after the inspection period, there was another self-inflicted death.  

Rebecca Roberts, Head of Policy at INQUEST said: 
"Despite the inspector’s assessment criteria determining that Styal is a ‘healthy’ prison, the reality of women’s experiences points to quite the opposite. The rates of self-harm have doubled since their previous inspection and distress remains endemic. 

Imprisonment is a disproportionate and inappropriate response for women, many of whom have experienced abuse, violence, poverty, drug misuse and mental ill-health. 
The government must act now to drastically reduce the number of women in prison and redirect resources to welfare, health, housing and social care. Diversion from prison towards treatment and support must be the priority.” 


For further information, please contact Lucy McKay and Sarah Uncles on 020 7263 1111 or [email protected][email protected]

INQUEST’s report Still Dying on the Inside examines deaths in women’s prisons.