There are currently 3,641 women in prison in the UK compared to 80,000 men (4.6%).
Significantly more females are found to be risky drinkers when they arrive in prison (24%)
compared to their male counterparts (18%). Moreover, individuals in the criminal justice
system (CJS), particularly women, are much more likely to suffer from inequalities in society.
For women this leads to gendered pains of imprisonment (loss of contact with family; power,
autonomy and control; psychological wellbeing and mental health; matters of trust, privacy
The aim of this PhD research was to assess the feasibility of carrying out screening and
alcohol brief interventions (ASBI) with female prisoners in an open prison in the North East of
England in order to make recommendations for a future study of ASBI’s for women in the
In order to achieve the above aim, the following methods were undertaken:
• A review of the literature underpinning ASBI’s,
• A systematic review investigating the barriers and facilitators of the use of ASBI’s for
women in the general population,
• A systematic review exploring the gendered pains of imprisonment for women,
• Semi-structured interviews to explore the barriers and facilitators of undertaking ASBI’s
for women in the prison system.
The first systematic review comprised of six included studies and found that the main barriers
and facilitators for women in relation to ASBI were: 1. communication in addressing a sensitive
topic; 2 pre-conceived perceptions of either the person delivering the intervention or the
woman receiving it; 3. trust and relationship between the person delivering the intervention
and woman receiving it; 4. family relationships; and 5. the mental health of the woman.
The second systematic review comprised of twelve included studies and found that the
gendered pains of imprisonment were: 1. poor treatment of female prisoners, 2. identity
transition and loss of status, 3. autonomy, lack of control and limited ability to control the
surrounding, 4. trust and lack of, 5. loss of contact with loved ones, and 6. emotional and
Eighteen qualitative interviews were undertaken with residents and relevant staff and
stakeholders in an open prison. Five themes were identified within the interviews: 1. a
woman’s journey into prison, 2. the journey through prison as a woman, 3. the influences on
a woman in prisons decision making, 4. a woman’s new journey when she leaves prison, and
5. the delivery of alcohol brief interventions to women in prison. These findings were
triangulated to make recommendations for a future pilot study.
To date there is a dearth of evidence in relation to delivering ASBI’s in the criminal justice
system, specifically in relation to women. This research explored the feasibility and
acceptability in great detail and added to the evidence base by making recommendations for
a future pilot study of the intervention based on the findings of this research. The research
suggests that delivering a public health intervention (ASBI) and underpinning the research
with criminological theory (pains of imprisonment) could help women capitalise on the
“teachable moment” necessary to induce behaviour change. To date there is no research in
the prison setting that tailors any intervention for women based on both public health and
|Date of Award||3 Dec 2022|
|Supervisor||Maggie Leese (Supervisor), Louisa Ells (Supervisor) & Aisha Holloway (Supervisor)|