Designing ‘healthy’ prisons for women: incorporating trauma-informed care and practice into prison planning and design.

  • Bendelow, Gillian (PI)
  • Jewkes, Yvonne (CoI)
  • Jordan, Melanie (CoI)
  • Wright, Serena (CoI)

Project: Research

Project Details


One in 10 women in prison have attempted suicide prior to custody; half have experienced domestic violence; one-third report sexual assault/abuse in childhood. Two-thirds are drug dependent or have hazardous levels of drinking; 80 per cent have had diagnosable mental health problems; 15 per cent have previously been admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Furthermore, women commit half of all incidents of self-harm in prisons and, although less than five per cent of the prison population, constitute 10 per cent of those who die by suicide in custody (Howard League, 2016).

Most experts believe that the women’s prison estate could and should be abolished, yet in November 2016 the Government announced that five new prisons for women are planned by 2020.

This project has been awarded a research development grant by the Foundation for the Sociology of Health and Illness (SHI) and considers designing ‘healthy’ prisons for women: incorporating trauma-informed care and practice into prison planning and design. This study is a collaborative endeavour between Professors Gillian Bendelow and Yvonne Jewkes, University of Brighton, Dr Melanie Jordan, University of Nottingham, and Dr Serena Wright, Royal Holloway, University of London).

Layman's description

This project brings together expertise in prison planning and design (Professor Yvonne Jewkes, University of Brighton), women’s health, illness and experience of trauma (Professor Gillian Bendelow, University of Brighton), and women’s imprisonment (Dr Serena Wright, Royal Holloway University of London) and Dr Melanie Jordan (University of Nottingham) to look at what should be the guiding principles of ‘gender-responsive’ design for women’s prisons.

Key findings

This research project is ongoing; output, findings and impact will be updated in due course.
Short titleDesigning ‘Healthy’ Prisons for Women
Effective start/end date1/03/1731/10/17


  • Women's imprisonment
  • Trauma-informed prisons
  • Carceral geographies
  • 'Healthy Prisons'
  • Prison planning and design