This, Angela Devlin’s classic text, was written at a time when there were few, if any, special arrangements for women in prison in England and Wales. It was a driving force in the creation of a dedicated female prison estate with its own director, regimes and regulations that took account of women’s different needs. Until then, the media tended to focus mainly on high profile women prisoners like Myra Hindley and Rosemary West. Most women became ‘invisible’ as soon as they passed through the prison gates and were subsumed into a world that was predominantly masculine and insensitive to their own situation.
The author spent five years visiting prisons taking women, interviewing female prisoners and those whose job it is to care for them — prison officers, education, probation and healthcare staff, chaplains and counsellors. The result is a book that is accessible to the general reader as well as the prison professional. It vividly recreates the realities of prison life for women prisoners.
Devlin describes the over-use of medication as a means of control; overcrowding; expenditure cuts; staff shortages; 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 has stood the test of time. It enables readers — especially those who have never set foot inside a prison — to see the unique impact of imprisonment on women.
‘What a marvellous book … Excellent’— Justice of the Peace.
‘Another important contribution to the struggle of ensuring women prisoners’ voices are heard and, as such, has much to commend it’— Journal of Law and Society
Angela Devlin is a writer, broadcaster and exponent of prisoners’ rights whose work has attracted wide interest and acclaim: Criminal Classes (Waterside Press, 1995), Prison Patter: A Dictionary of Prison Slang (Waterside Press, 1996); Anybody’s Nightmare: The Sheila Bowler Story (Taverner Publications, 1998), Going Straight After Crime and Punishment with Bob Turney (Waterside Press, 1999) and Cell Mates/Soul Mates (Waterside Press, 2002). Anybody’s Nightmare, the true story of a wrongful conviction for murder, was later dramatised for ITV and featured the character ‘Angela Devlin’ campaigning for the case to be re-opened (The conviction was eventually quashed and the defendant acquitted after a new trial).